Guinness Premiership: London Irish to challenge at the top

London Irish came within one point of lifting the Guinness Premiership trophy last season, and Jon Hobbs believes that they will be in the running once again at the end of the year.

Steffon Armitage

Steffon Armitage could feature heavily for Irish and England this season

Players In
Andy Perry (Newcastle Falcons)
Paulica Ion (Bath Rugby)
Ryan Lamb (Gloucester Rugby)
Jamie Lennard (Doncaster Knights)
Chris Malone (Harlequins)
George Stowers (Kobe, Japan)
James Tideswell (Plymouth Albion)
Ben Stevenson (Newbury)

Players Out
James Bailey (Lyon)
Warren Fury (London Wasps)
Shane Geraghty (Northampton Saints)
James Hudson (Newcastle Falcons)
Tonga Lea’aetoa (Toulon)
Dominic Shabbo (London Welsh)
Richard Skuse (Saracens)
Eoghan Hickey (London Wasps)

London Irish will rely on a very similar 1st XV to last season to bring them the Premiership crown they got so close to nabbing. Playing some fantastic rugby through the season they deserved their place in the final but were outplayed in the big match when it counted.

Shane Geraghty is a big loss and has not been replaced with the same quality – signing three average fly-halves is money that could have been spent better on one obvious first-choicer and an understudy. Ryan Lamb cannot structure a game to combat different types of opposition, Chris Malone has proven limited throughout his career and Jamie Lennard is untested at this level. This will be where the Exiles come unstuck.

They have enough quality in the Armitage brothers, Peter Hewat, Richard Thorpe and Nick Kennedy (to name a few) to beat most of the better teams but without a proven fly-half they may not win the big matches.

However, this comes at a time when many of their challenging clubs have been rocked by summers spent in turmoil and they should benefit from being a settled squad with an excellent coach. They will be there or thereabouts at the end of the season but I don’t think they will win it.

Prediction: 2nd (losing finalists)

4 thoughts on “Guinness Premiership: London Irish to challenge at the top

  1. Thing with Geraghty is that he hardly played last season due to injury, and never really settled on a position anyway, moving between 10 and 12. *If* Lamb can fulfil the early promise he showed at Gloucester and mature into a good out-half I reckon that’s actually an area where we’ll be stronger (or if Lennard blossoms at this level).

    Lea’aetoa and Hudson, unlike Geraghty, aren’t flashy, not necessarily first choice in an ideal 1st XV, but they never let us down. With other front row injuries Lea’aetoa played almost every game, moving between loose and tight as needed, and with Kennedy off with England and Casey also injured, I believe Hudson played more games than either of them. Those two could be the real key losses.

  2. Huh. Just to spite me Geraghty’s going to have an injury-free season, become a fixture at 10 and suddenly turn into an 80% kicker isn’t he? Lamb was looking decent in pre-season, fingers crossed that first game was just a bit of a glitch, or it’s going to be a long season (or maybe more to the point, not as long a season as it could be).

  3. I know the momentum had shifted towards Irish before Hewat came on…but the whole team seemed to play better with him at 10. All he did was fling a few telling passes out but it was more than Lamby. He’s also a better kicker for goal.

  4. Who is this Jon Hobbs feller? He seems to have learnt a lot about rugby since his report on the Newcastle Falcons

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