London Irish have been given a boost by the return of Brendan Venter to the club, as he takes up the new position of Technical Director with immediate effect.
It is a massive appointment for the club, after they have lost a lot of big names, including Head Coach Tom Coventry, since they were relegated from the Aviva Premiership this year. Venter, who ranks among the most experienced and respected coaching experts in the game, renews an association with the Exiles that began in 1998 when he first signed as a centre.
Making 84 appearances during two spells with the club, Venter played a key role with Conor O’Shea in leading Irish to its first and only national trophy, the Powergen Cup in 2002. A member of South Africa’s World Cup-winning squad in 1995, Venter subsequently joined Saracens where he played a prominent part in laying the foundations for the club’s current success before returning to his medical practice and other rugby commitments.
He returns to London Irish to prepare the squad for the Greene King IPA Championship where they will be doing their utmost to ensure that the Exiles return to the Aviva Premiership at the first opportunity. Among Venter’s first actions is to appoint Nick Kennedy as Director of Rugby and Clark Laidlaw as Assistant Coach, while George Skivington and Academy coaches Declan Danaher and Paul Hodgson will assist with coaching the senior squad.
Danaher will oversee defence, Hodgson will focus on skills and Skivington will work with the forwards. London Irish Chief Executive Bob Casey said: “Not only is Brendan respected throughout the game for his expertise and experience, he has also been a steadfast friend of this club. We’re delighted that he has accepted our invitation to return to lead us through what we know will be a testing season in the Championship.
“It is very encouraging that we’ve retained the talented Clark Laidlaw as an Assistant Coach and are delighted that Declan Danaher, Paul Hodgson and George Skivington will help with the coaching of the senior team. Declan, Paul and Nick have transformed the Academy since they took over in 2014 bringing a wealth of playing experience and coaching expertise, as well as an intimate appreciation of the club and its heritage, to the young players in their charge.
“I’m sure they will be a valuable addition to Brendan’s coaching team.” Venter said: “The main reason why I decided on London Irish is because I have so many good memories and friends still at the club which made for me a sound and easy decision to be part of the club going forward. The club has genuine ambition to compete in the Premiership and in Europe and has the foundations in place to enable it to do so. I’m looking forward to working with the players, coaches, Board and management to realise the club’s ambitions.”
Director of Rugby Nick Kennedy said: “London Irish prides itself on its Academy which saw great success last season, and as a club we will be making sure that we continue to maintain the highest standards as we strive to create a pathway for youngsters coming through the system. Relevant steps have been made including the appointment of new staff to the Academy department to ensure the consistency of the Academy programme.
“As part of my role as Director of Rugby I will continue to oversee the Academy programme, enabling me to develop and utilise the young talent that will ultimately become the future of London Irish.”
The club have also announced their first team squad ahead of the 2016-17 Greene King IPA Championship season. The squad will undergo a series of initial fitness tests and conditioning drills as the pre-season programme gathers pace in the build up to the opening day of the campaign. Fixtures for the new season will be announced in due course.
Director of Rugby Nick Kennedy said: “It’s great to have everyone back for preseason following the summer break and I know that the players are itching to right the wrongs of last season. I’m excited at the prospect of what the new recruits can bring to the table in what is a promising squad with a lot of ambition. The Championship is going to be a tough competition and we will need to be fully prepared for the challenge that lies ahead.”
Squad BACKS: Alex Lewington, Aseli Tikoirotuma, Brendan McKibbin, Ciaran Hearn, Conor Murphy, Darren Allinson, Fergus Mulchrone, Greig Tonks, James Marshall (Hurricanes), Joe Cockanasiga, Johnny Williams, Matt Williams, Rory Brand, Ross Neal, Scott Steele, Shane Geraghty, Theo Brophy Clews, Tommy Bell (Leicester Tigers), Tom Fowlie, Tom Parton, Topsy Ojo
FORWARDS: Ben Franks, Blair Cowan, Conor Gilsenan, Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi (Northampton Saints), David Paice, Dave Porecki (Saracens), George Robson (Oyonnax), Gerard Ellis, Harry Elrington, Isaac Curtis Harris, Jebb Sinclair, Jerry Sexton (Exeter Chiefs), Joe Trayfoot, Luke Narraway, Matt Kouris, Ofisa Treviranus, Ollie Hoskins (Western Force), Max Northcote-Green (Bath Rugby), Mike Coman (Edinburgh Rugby), Richard Palframan, Sebastian De Chaves (Leicester Tigers), Tom Court, Tom Smallbone, Will Lloyd
OUT: Andrew Fenby (retired), Geoff Cross (retired), Nic Rouse (retired), Tom Guest (retired), George Skivington (retired), Rob McCusker (released), Chris Noakes (released), Leo Halavatau (released), Tom Cruse (Wasps), Sean Maitland (Saracens), Matt Symons (Wasps), Jonny Harris (London Scottish), Jimmy Stevens (Nottingham Rugby), Halani Aulika (Sale Sharks), Dominic Waldouck (Ohio)