London Irish
LondonIrishNew.png
Full nameLondon Irish Rugby Football Club
UnionMiddlesex RFU, Surrey RFU, Irish RFU
Nickname(s)The Exiles, The Drummers
Founded1898; 124 years ago (1898)
LocationBrentford, Greater London, England
Ground(s)Gtech Community Stadium (Capacity: 17,250)
ChairmanKieran McCarthy
CEOAdrian Alli
PresidentMick Crossan
Director of RugbyDeclan Kidney
Coach(es)Les Kiss
Captain(s)Matt Rogerson
Most capsTopsy Ojo (301)
Top scorerBarry Everitt (1,234)
Most triesTopsy Ojo (46)
League(s)Premiership Rugby
2021–228th
Official website
www.london-irish.com

London Irish RFC is a professional rugby union club which competes in the Premiership, the top division of English rugby union. The club has also competed in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, the European Champions Cup and European Challenge Cup. While playing in the Championship in 2016–17 and 2018–19, it also played in the British and Irish Cup and RFU Championship Cup. The club played home games at the Madejski Stadium in Reading, Berkshire, for twenty years, before moving for the 2020–21 season to the Gtech Community Stadium in Brentford, West London.

The club was founded in 1898 following the creation of London Scottish and London Welsh for the same reason, allowing Irishmen the chance to play rugby with fellow countrymen in the English Capital.

London Irish won its first major trophy in 2002, the Powergen Cup (now the Premiership Rugby Cup), and reached the 2009 English Premiership final, narrowly losing 10–9 to Leicester Tigers at Twickenham Stadium.[1] In the 2007–08 season, the team came close to a place in the Heineken Cup Final, losing out to Stade Toulousain 15–21 in the semi-final at Twickenham Stadium.[2]

History

Formation and Early Years

The squad that played Racing Club de France at Parc des Princes in 1899.
The squad that played Racing Club de France at Parc des Princes in 1899.

London Irish was the last club to be formed in England by working and student exiles from the home countries, following London Scottish in 1878 and London Welsh in 1885. The first game took place on 1 October 1898 against the former Hammersmith club at Herne Hill Athletic Ground, with London Irish winning 8–3. The team that season benefited from the early recruitment of vet and Irish international Louis Magee.[3] He became essential in the early years of the club along with club captain R.S Dyas in putting the team on the map and having regular fixtures between other London based teams.

War and Conflict

The turn of the new century was a great time for London Irish with the club firmly solidified in the London Club Roster but this would be some of the last years of normality for the team. With the commencement of World War I, many of the players enlisted with Irish Battalions in their homeland for deployment in mainland Europe. In 1916, remaining players and members returned to Ireland to fight in the Easter Rising and many who joined regiments did not return. It is unknown how many were lost with a connection to the club. Following the formation of the Irish Free State in 1923, those who fought in both battles returned to the club which saw a overhaul of the club over the remainder of the decade, reviving the team and its influence for a new beginning.

In the years that followed, Irish made strides to playing competition outside of Greater London with matches against teams such as Leicester and Cardiff. This however was short lived with the commencement of World War II with players and members again being displaced across the continent, many of which elected not to return following the end of the war. 9 of the players who played in the 1938–39 season died in the conflict. The Club's then playing ground located in Sunbury-on-Thames was acquired by Ministry for Agriculture to be used as a site to grow food for the war-torn capital. Because of the state of the playing field after the war, games were temporarily held at Rectory Field in Blackheath.

Post-war Years

The years that followed got off to a rocky beginning. Player numbers weren't what they used to be as former members elected not to move back to London and this made it difficult to front a starting XV. The year that followed brought in the Winter of 1946, one of the coldest winters on record in the United Kingdom. Rectory Field was frozen for most the winter meaning Irish missed matches in the season. Things picked up with the arrival of new captain, Des O'Brien and a number of other key players, and in 1948, London Irish celebrated their 50th anniversary and the most successful season yet for the club.

In the 1950s, the club thrived fielding teams most weeks and in 1951 they became the first club to host touring Italian team Roma. On September 9th, 1959, Irish officially returned to Sunbury and had a place to call home, dubbed The Avenue. They performed a record-breaking season where they didn't lose a single game.

The success of the 1960s for the London Irish was mixed, with many good wins but also a number of defeats. Fixtures improved and the club played against many famous teams which changed the attitude of the training and playing, and in the seventies, London Irish became a force to be reckoned with, finishing first in the London Division of the Rugby Football Union in the 1976/77 season. Pre-season tours became popular and in 1977, the London Irish made history in South Africa when they became the first touring side to play a host of mixed race teams.

Professional Era

London Irish vs Toulon in 2010
London Irish vs Toulon in 2010

Since the professional era began in August 1995, London Irish has only lifted one piece of major silverware, winning the Powergen Cup in 2002 in a match against Northampton at Twickenham that saw the club win 38-7. 75,000 people attended the match seeing the exiles win in what is regarded as one of the most successful days in the club's history. London Irish enjoyed success in Europe in 2005-06 when they reached the final of the Challenge Cup, only to be defeated by Gloucester 36-34 in what was an extremely close game at Twickenham. In 2013, Irish was taken over by a consortium led by Mick Crossan, executive chairman of Powerday, a London based Recycling and Waste Management firm. Powerday would go on to be one of the club's main sponsors.

Academy

London Irish manages its own academy, with players such as Tom Homer, Nick Kennedy, Topsy Ojo, Anthony Watson, Brothers Delon Armitage & Guy Armitage, Alex Corbisiero and Jonathan Joseph having gone on to play for the senior side and be internationally capped. Ojo retired at the end of the 2018–19 season having made 301 appearances for the club despite clearly having no Irish heritage nor ancestry.

Stadium

Gtech Community Stadium Under Construction.
Gtech Community Stadium Under Construction.

Since the 2020–21 season, London Irish play at the Gtech Community Stadium, in Brentford, Greater London. The stadium is owned by Brentford F.C. who also play their home games there. The ground is a 17,250 all-seater capacity stadium which opened in 2020. All London Irish home matches are generally played at Brentford.

Prior to 2020, the club played at the Madejski Stadium in Reading, Berkshire for 20 seasons between 2000 and March 2020 when the 2019–20 season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to delays owing to the aforementioned pandemic, Brentford Stadium was running behind its scheduled opening date. Irish made the decision to play its remaining games when possible at Harlequin's Twickenham Stoop as they could not return to Reading. The Exiles had previously played at The Stoop in the 1999–2000 Season before moving to the Madejski Stadium.

London Irish drummers and fans at the Madejski Stadium.
London Irish drummers and fans at the Madejski Stadium.

The largest crowd for a London Irish match was for a game against London Wasps on 15 March 2008 during the 2007–08 season. The crowd of 23,790 was also the highest attendance for a regular season Premiership Rugby match until December 2008.[4]

On 12 March 2016 London Irish played their first home Premiership match abroad, and also the first-ever Premiership match outside England, when they travelled to the United States to face Saracens at the New York Red Bulls' Red Bull Arena in the New York metropolitan area.[5]

On 15 August 2016, the club announced its intention to return to London and that it was in formal discussions with Hounslow London Borough Council to play at Brentford's new stadium.[6] On 10 February 2017, the club confirmed that the council had approved its application to use the stadium for rugby, effectively allowing them to move into the new stadium from its opening season.[7] This was later confirmed.[8]

London Irish Amateur Rugby Football Club

Further information: London Irish Amateur

The club also hosts London Irish Amateur RFC (a separate legal entity) for non-professionals to allow them to improve in Rugby. The team plays at the location of London Irish's training ground and offices, Hazelwood in Sunbury. Some players such as Justin Bishop and Kieran Campbell have gone through the ranks to play for London Irish professional team.[9]

Mascot

Digger
Digger

Digger

Digger is an Irish Wolfhound and official mascot of London Irish. He has an important job in providing support to the club.

On 30 May 2003 Digger won the "Best Mascot" award in Premiership Rugby at the Premier Rugby Marketing Awards.[10]

On 23 April 2006, Digger ran the London Marathon raising money for Spinal Research. He finished the marathon in a time of 6 hours 39 minutes 31 seconds.[11]

Others

Mr Doyle
Mr Doyle

Digger was joined by his cousin, Duggie, from the 2006–07 season. Much taller and much slower, Duggie has proved popular with younger children attending matchdays. As well as the mascot characters, there is also a real Irish Wolfhound, Mr Doyle, who also attends the home games. Before Mr Doyle, his Great Uncle, Jumbo, attended home games before Jumbo retired and eventually died.

Rivalries

London Irish have rivalries in the Greater London area, mainly with Harlequins and Saracens who are now, thanks to Irish moving back to West London, are able to have local derbies. Gtech Community Stadium's location makes it less than 2 miles to the Twickenham Stoop. They also maintain a friendly rivalry with London Scottish of who they were teamed with as another exile team.

Current kit

The kit is currently supplied by BLK. The green home kit is made from Exotek fabric and features gel grippers on the front and gripper tape at the seams. The jersey also features a sectioned crew neck, club colour detailing on the sleeve and a silicone gel finish on the club crest.

The club's principal sponsor Powerday, appears on the front centre on a broad red lined white stripe. Above this, the club's crest appears on the left chest and 9 Group on the right chest. Other club sponsors Pump Technology and Keltbray appear on the back. The playing shorts are plain featuring only the logo of the club and manufacturer.

The away kit is white and features a similar design with Powerday appearing on a broad green stripe.

London Irish recently announced a new elite partnership with Just Clear, an environmentally friendly British house clearance and rubbish removal service in readiness for new Premiership season. London Irish CEO, Mark Bensted, welcomed the arrival of a new partnership to the Club’s commercial portfolio, commenting: “I’m delighted Just Clear are joining the London Irish family". Such news potentially points to London Irish's consolidation of their Premiership status as they were relegated in the 2018-19 season. [12]

Season summaries

League Domestic Cup European Cup
Season Competition Final Position Points Play-Offs Competition Performance Competition Performance
1987–88 Courage League Division 2 8th 24 N/A John Player Cup 3rd round No competition N/A
1988–89 Courage League Division 2 6th 12 N/A Pilkington Cup 4th round
1989–90 Courage League Division 2 5th 12 N/A Pilkington Cup 2nd round
1990–91 Courage League Division 2 2nd (P) 19 N/A Pilkington Cup Quarter-final
1991–92 Courage League Division 1 9th 9 N/A Pilkington Cup 3rd round
1992–93 Courage League Division 1 7th 12 N/A Pilkington Cup 3rd round
1993–94 Courage League Division 1 9th (R) 8 N/A Pilkington Cup 5th round
1994–95 Courage League Division 2 5th 18 N/A Pilkington Cup 5th round
1995–96 Courage League Division 2 2nd (P) 30 N/A Pilkington Cup Semi-final No English teams N/A
1996–97 Courage League Division 1 10th 12 N/A Pilkington Cup 4th round Challenge Cup 6th in pool
1997–98 Allied Dunbar Premiership 11th 12 N/A Tetley's Bitter Cup Quarter-final Challenge Cup 2nd in pool
1998–99 Allied Dunbar Premiership 7th 30 N/A Tetley's Bitter Cup Quarter-final No English teams N/A
1999–00 Allied Dunbar Premiership 8th 25 N/A Tetley's Bitter Cup Semi-final Challenge Cup Semi-final
2000–01 Zurich Premiership 8th 45 N/A Tetley's Bitter Cup Quarter-final Challenge Cup 1st in pool*
2001–02 Zurich Premiership 4th 57 N/A Powergen Cup Champions Challenge Cup Semi-final
2002–03 Zurich Premiership 9th 40 - Powergen Cup Semi-final Heineken Cup 2nd in pool
2003–04 Zurich Premiership 8th 49 - Powergen Cup Quarter-final Challenge Cup 2nd round
2004–05 Zurich Premiership 10th 40 - Powergen Cup Semi-final Challenge Cup 2nd round
2005–06 Guinness Premiership 3rd 66 Semi-final Powergen Cup 3rd in pool Challenge Cup Runners-up
2006–07 Guinness Premiership 6th 53 - EDF Energy Cup 2nd in pool Heineken Cup 4th in pool
2007–08 Guinness Premiership 7th 59 - EDF Energy Cup 3rd in pool Heineken Cup Semi-final
2008–09 Guinness Premiership 3rd 66 Runners-up EDF Energy Cup 2nd in pool Challenge Cup Quarter-final
2009–10 Guinness Premiership 6th 52 - LV= Cup 3rd in pool Heineken Cup 3rd in pool
2010–11 Aviva Premiership 6th 54 - LV= Cup 3rd in pool Heineken Cup 4th in pool
2011–12 Aviva Premiership 7th 46 - LV= Cup 2nd in pool Heineken Cup 4th in pool
2012–13 Aviva Premiership 9th 35 - LV= Cup 2nd in pool Challenge Cup 2nd in pool
2013–14 Aviva Premiership 10th 36 - LV= Cup 3rd in pool Challenge Cup 2nd in pool
2014–15 Aviva Premiership 10th 40 - LV= Cup 4th in pool Challenge Cup Quarter-final
2015–16 Aviva Premiership 12th (R) 20 - No competition N/A Challenge Cup Quarter-final
2016–17 Greene King IPA Championship 1st (P) 91 Champions British and Irish Cup Semi-final Not qualified N/A
2017–18 Aviva Premiership 12th (R) 22 - Anglo-Welsh Cup 2nd in pool Challenge Cup 3rd in pool
2018–19 Greene King IPA Championship 1st (P) 99 - Championship Cup Runners-up Not qualified N/A
2019–20 Gallagher Premiership 10th 34 - Premiership Cup 3rd in pool Challenge Cup 4th in pool
2020–21 Gallagher Premiership 9th 48 - No competition N/A Challenge Cup Quarter-final
2021-22 Gallagher Premiership 8th 63 Premiership Cup Runners-up Challenge Cup Quarter-final

Gold background denotes champions
Silver background denotes runners-up
Pink background denotes relegated

* Finished first in pool but did not progress to the quarter-final. Their place was taken by Brive[13][14]

Club honours

Major Honours

Friendly

Current squad

For player movements before or during the 2022–23 season, see List of 2022–23 Premiership Rugby transfers § London Irish.

The London Irish squad for the 2022–23 season is:[15][a]

Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under WR eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-WR nationality.

Player Position Union
Ben Atkins Hooker England England
Matt Cornish Hooker England England
Agustín Creevy Hooker Argentina Argentina
Patrick Harrison [a] Hooker Scotland Scotland
Isaac Miller Hooker Scotland Scotland
Mike Willemse Hooker South Africa South Africa
Lovejoy Chawatama Prop Zimbabwe Zimbabwe
Ciaran Parker Prop England England
Danilo Fischetti Prop Italy Italy
Facundo Gigena Prop Argentina Argentina
Will Goodrick-Clarke Prop England England
Luke Green Prop England England
Ollie Hoskins Prop Australia Australia
Jamie Jack [a] Prop England England
Giosuè Zilocchi Prop Italy Italy
Josh Caulfield Lock England England
Adam Coleman Lock Australia Australia
Chunya Munga Lock England England
Api Ratuniyarawa Lock Fiji Fiji
Ed Scragg Lock Wales Wales
Rob Simmons Lock Australia Australia
Josh Basham Back row England England
Ben Donnell Back row England England
Jack Cooke Back row Ireland Ireland
Isaac Curtis-Harris Back row England England
So'otala Fa'aso'o Back row Samoa Samoa
Juan Martín González Back row Argentina Argentina
Izaia Moore-Aiono Back row England England
Tom Pearson Back row England England
Matt Rogerson (c) Back row England England
Josh Smart Back row England England
Player Position Union
Caolan Englefield Scrum-half Ireland Ireland
Hugh O'Sullivan Scrum-half Ireland Ireland
Joe Powell Scrum-half Australia Australia
Ben White Scrum-half Scotland Scotland
Jacob Atkins Fly-half England England
Paddy Jackson Fly-half Ireland Ireland
Rory Jennings Fly-half England England
Tom Hitchock Centre England England
Benhard Janse van Rensburg Centre South Africa South Africa
Will Joseph Centre England England
Luca Morisi Centre Italy Italy
Matt Williams Centre England England
Ben Loader Wing England England
Lucio Cinti Wing Argentina Argentina
Ollie Hassell-Collins Wing England England
Tom Parton Wing England England
Logan Trotter Wing Scotland Scotland
Henry Arundell Fullback England England
Kyle Rowe Fullback Scotland Scotland
James Stokes Fullback England England

Academy squad

The London Irish academy squad is:[17]

Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under WR eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-WR nationality.

Player Position Union
Calum Scott Hooker England England
Joe Vajner Hooker England England
Afolabi Fosagbon Prop England England
Tarek Haffar Prop England England
Oran Murphy Prop England England
Mikey Summerfield Prop England England
Chandler Cunningham-South Lock New Zealand New Zealand
Jarlath Gleeson Lock Ireland Ireland
Lucas Brooke Back row England England
Oliver Stirling Back row Scotland Scotland
Player Position Union
Ollie Allan Scrum-half England England
Monty Bradbury Fly-half England England
Conor Cross Centre England England
Jake Shortland Centre England England
Jack Walsh Centre England England
Michael Dykes Wing England England
Alexander Harmes Wing England England
  1. ^ a b c Edinburgh duo Patrick Harrison and Jamie Jack are on short-term loans[16]

Club staff

First Team Coaching

Academy

Notable former players

See also: Category:London Irish players

Rugby World Cup

The following are players which have represented their countries at the Rugby World Cup, whilst playing for London Irish:

Tournament Players selected England players Other national team players
1999 7 Malcolm O'Kelly Ireland, Kieron Dawson Ireland, Justin Bishop Ireland, Conor O'Shea Ireland, Julian Loveday Canada, Isaac Fe'aunati Samoa, Stephen Bachop Samoa
2003 0
2007 7 Peter Richards, Mike Catt Olivier Magne France, Juan Manuel Leguizamón Argentina, Gonzalo Tiesi Argentina, Seilala Mapusua Samoa, Sailosi Tagicakibau Samoa
2011 8 Alex Corbisiero, Delon Armitage, Shontayne Hape Joe Ansbro Scotland, Jebb Sinclair Canada, Paulică Ion Romania, Ofisa Treviranus Samoa, Sailosi Tagicakibau Samoa
2015 6 Blair Cowan Scotland, Sean Maitland Scotland, Asaeli Tikoirotuma Fiji, Ofisa Treviranus Samoa, Halani Aulika Tonga, Jebb Sinclair Canada
2019 6 Allan Dell Scotland, Motu Matu'u Samoa, TJ Ioane Samoa, Steve Mafi Tonga, Bryce Campbell United States Alivereti Veitokani Fiji

See also

References

  1. ^ Palmer, Bryn (16 May 2009). "Leicester 10–9 London Irish". BBC News.
  2. ^ "London Irish 15–21 Toulouse". BBC News. 26 April 2008.
  3. ^ Club history –beginnings london-irish.com Retrieved 20 September 2015
  4. ^ "No Luck on Paddy's Day for Irish". Guinness Premiership.com. Retrieved 16 March 2008.[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ "London Irish Aviva Premiership Rugby match in USA". London Irish. 27 October 2015. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  6. ^ Hyde, Nathan. "London Irish could soon leave Madejski Stadium". Get Reading. Trinity Mirror Southern. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
  7. ^ "Approval for rugby". Brentford Community Stadium. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  8. ^ "Back in Town — The Irish are Returning to London!". London Irish. 18 December 2018. Retrieved 18 December 2018.
  9. ^ [1] Archived 15 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Digger Wins 'Best Mascot' Award". London Irish. Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  11. ^ "Steven Orton is fundraising for Spinal Research – JustGiving". JustGiving. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  12. ^ "Just Clear have joined London Irish as an Elite Partner". London Irish. 25 June 2021. Retrieved 28 June 2021.
  13. ^ "Challenge Cup | Pool Tables".
  14. ^ "Challenge Cup | Fixtures & Results".
  15. ^ "First Team - London Irish". London Irish. Retrieved 14 June 2021.
  16. ^ "Duo join on loan from Edinburgh Rugby". London Irish. 20 September 2022. Retrieved 20 September 2022.
  17. ^ "Academy Players". London Irish. Retrieved 15 February 2020.

Notes