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O’Brien could pave way for Irish influx at Exiles

Sean OBrien could pave way for Irish influx at Exiles
19 February 2019; Sean O’Brien during an Ireland rugby press conference at Carton House in Maynooth, Co Kildare. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

By Damian Dolan

London Irish’s signing of Ireland international Sean O’Brien could pave the way for more Irish players to join the Exiles.

Speaking after the side’s 52-22 win over Coventry at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday, London Irish head coach Les Kiss said the club has been contacted by several interested players from Ireland.

These are exciting times for London Irish with the Exiles on course for an immediate return to the Premiership and set to move back to west London for the start of the 2020-21 season.

O’Brien’s signing last week, however, raised the club’s profile in Ireland to a level not seen for years.

“We don’t want to be in competition with the IRFU, we just want to be an option for people to choose,” Kiss told the Irish World.


“If we make London Irish a compelling opportunity for people who want to come here, particularly from Ireland, then very good. We’ll always talk to them.

“We have not actively chased Irish players, but there’s a market place out there and agents and players talk to you and we’ve had a phone call from more than one Irish player, asking ‘what is London Irish about?’ and ‘is there an opportunity for me?’.

“Sean was the active one asking what we were about – he was very interested.

“He’s had a couple of injuries, but his training and playing age is still at an optimal level, so he’s still got more to offer.”

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O’Brien’s signing was a major coup for the club, making huge headlines both in Ireland and England.

London Irish head coach Les Kiss. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

“It’s been great; you know that someone like Sean is going to excite a lot of people and it’s going to create a lot of interest back in Ireland for sure,” said Kiss.

“Which is great because if [Irish] people have a team they want to support in England let it be London Irish.

“I’m not surprised that there’s been a lot of positive reaction to it. Not only from the fans, but from all stakeholders.

“Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster were glowing in what they think of Sean and respected the decision, and that’s fantastic.”

O’Brien will join up with London Irish after the World Cup in Japan which gets underway in October.

Kiss added: “To have someone like Sean, who was keen to help build this project, is a vote of confidence for London Irish. Sean coming in will build the potency in the back row……if we go up you need a strong back row and that type of person. Sean O’Brien will only lift the standard.”

Ian Keatley of London Irish goes over for a try during the Greene King IPA Championship match between London Irish and Coventry on 16th February 2018 at Madjeski Stadium, Reading. – PHOTO: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

The Exiles ran in eight tries in Saturday’s comprehensive win over Coventry, but it wasn’t enough to see them increase their nine-point lead at the top of the Championship table, as closest rivals Ealing Trailfinders managed an impressive bonus-point win away to third placed Cornish Pirates.

On loan Munster fly half Ian Keatley had an eventful debut for the Exiles, touching down in the 2nd minute before being forced off with a head injury.

“While he was on, Ian did a really good job for us. He’s worked closely with the squad over the last few weeks and his expertise and experience is coming through,” said Kiss.

Irish’s other tries came from Ollie Hassell-Collins (2), Brendan McKibbin, Dave Porecki, Albert Tuisue, Brendan Macken and Topsy Ojo.


With seven rounds of Championship fixtures remaining, there appears to be no immediate end to the Mexican stand-off between Irish and Ealing.

Irish host Yorkshire Carnegie on Sunday in the semi-finals of the Championship Cup (KO 1pm).

Declan Kidney’s side then return to league action on 2 March when London Scottish are the visitors to Reading. Ealing will be at home to Hartpury on the same afternoon.

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