The Premiership gets into its stride as Irish face Quins
London Irish director of rugby Nick Kennedy is looking forward to seeing his side build on Saturday’s thrilling contest against Harlequins.
Harlequins won the Cunningham Duncombe Series 31-29 by virtue of two late Dave Ward tries the second in the last minute of the game, but the Exiles were more than a match for a Quins side who welcomed back four pivotal England stars to their ranks.
“It was a good pre-season hit-out for our boys and I’m pleased with what I saw,” said Kennedy.
“There were errors but I was encouraged with the performance and the way we stuck in there. It’s brilliant that we got that match fitness in the bank and we’ve got lots we can work on.
London Irish blooded seven new signings for their pre-season opener, with two-time European Rugby Champions Cup winner Petrus Du Plessis in the thick of the action.
Kennedy, who himself won Europe’s top prize with Toulon in 2013, said: “The Saracens coaches said Petrus was their best scrummager and that’s a pretty impressive recommendation for us coming from a team like that.
“He’s been excellent since he arrived and he has a good rugby brain.” More than 2,000 spectators descended on Hazelwood for the first of two friendlies taking place at the club’s training base.
Kennedy paid tribute to the tremendous support, saying: “Our supporters were fantastic throughout last season, travelling the length and breadth of the country to watch us play and this season will be no different.
“There is a real excitement among our supporters ahead of the Aviva Premiership and it’s great to see. A big thank you must go to them for their fantastic support in our opening pre-season game.”
Kennedy now prepares his charges for the visit of Ealing Trailfinders to Hazelwood on Friday 18 August (kickoff 7.30pm), for which Kennedy has named a 30-man squad.
The Exiles have made 10 changes to the starting team against Harlequins last Saturday, as preparations for the start of the season at the traditional London Double Header gathers pace.
Scotland international Gordon Reid and double World Cup-winning All Black Ben Franks get the nod at loosehead and tighthead respectively alongside hooker Dave Porecki.
Second row Will Lloyd gets his chance to shine from the start, partnering last season’s Players’ Player of the Year Sebastian De Chaves in the engine room.
Conor Gilsenan starts at openside flanker with fellow back rows Mike Coman and Ofisa Treviranus.
Scrum-half Ben Meehan, one of 11 new recruits this summer, forms an exciting half-back partnership with James Marshall at the heart of Irish’s backline. Luke McLean and Ciaran Hearn are the new pairing in the centres, while wing Alex Lewington and full-back Tommy Bell retain their places. Ben Ransom provides pace on the wing.
With 15 players on the bench, including five new signings and the returning Aseli Tikoirotuma, Exiles’ director of rugby Nick Kennedy is looking to utilise the full range of his squad.
London Irish: 15 Tommy Bell, 14 Alex Lewington, 13 Ciaran Hearn, 12 Luke McLean, 11 Ben Ransom, 10 James Marshall, 9 Ben Meehan, 1 Gordon Reid, 2 Dave Porecki, 3 Ben Franks (c), 4 Will Lloyd, 5 Sebastian De Chaves, 6 Mike Coman, 7 Conor Gilsenan, 8 Ofisa Treviranus
Replacements: 16 Darren Dawidiuk, 17 Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi, 18 Petrus Du Plessis, 19 Josh McNally, 20 Jake Schatz, 21 Brendan McKibbin, 22 Greig Tonks, 23 Lasha Lomidze, 24 Blair Cowan, 25 Senitiki Nayalo, 26 Napolioni Nalaga, 27 Fergus Mulchrone, 28 Matt Williams, 29 Topsy Ojo, 30 Aseli Tikoirotuma
Tickets for the game are priced at £5 for adults and free for under-16s and can be purchased by clicking here. The deadline for advanced ticket sales is 5pm on Thursday 17 August. After this tickets can be purchased for cash on the gate from 6pm on Friday.