Former Ireland Grand Slam-winning Head Coach and now London Irish Technical Consultant, Declan Kidney, has admitted that confidence among his players is high ahead of their Aviva Premiership game against Harlequins at The Stoop on Saturday.
London Irish have made two changes for the Aviva Premiership clash against Harlequins at The Stoop (kick-off 3pm), with both Arno Botha (calf) and Conor Gilsenan (ankle) ruled out through injury. As a result, Max Northcote-Green and Jake Schatz come into the back-row alongside No. 8 Ofisa Treviranus.
Josh McNally retains his place in the second-row after making a try-scoring return to action in the Exiles’ narrow 33-29 defeat to Gloucester a fortnight ago. McNally, who was side lined for almost five months following corrective heart surgery, partners skipper Franco van der Merwe in the engine room, while Ben Franks, David Paice and Ollie Hoskins all get the nod in the front-row.
Irish are unchanged in the backline, winger Joe Cokanasiga and fly-half Theo Brophy Clews having scored a try apiece in the Exiles’ last outing. Brophy Clews’ second half score propelled the former Abingdon School pupil over 100 career points and his partnership with scrum-half Piet van Zyl worked effectively as Irish battled to secure two bonus points.
“We’ve encouraged the lads to keep doing what they’re doing as they’ve picked up a lot of losing bonus points, which means we’ve been knocking on the door for a while now,” said London Irish technical consultant Declan Kidney.
“Les and I agreed that we weren’t going to come in and change everything around and we have looked to build confidence in some of the things that we’ve been doing.
“We’ve looked at our attack and defence without changing everything around, as at this stage of the season you just don’t want to be overfilling with detail because of the nature of our matches.
“We’ve had a good 10 days with the lads where we’ve been able to add some value to training on the back of seeing some good passages of play in our last game.”
The Exiles ran in four tries to earn a bonus point victory over Harlequins at Twickenham on the opening weekend of the Aviva Premiership campaign. Irish have picked up six points from their last three league games to cut the gap to 10 points at the foot of the Aviva Premiership table with four rounds remaining.
“I’m sure Quins will be looking to do a number on us after what happened on the opening day and that just spices up the task even more,” said the Corkman.
“We’re treating the game as a one-off match, which you’re able to do when you have a two-week break leading into a game and I’m sure they are thinking the same.
“Confidence is a strange word in terms of perception because you could be winning all of your matches and be over confident. Just because the results haven’t gone our way, it doesn’t mean that confidence has been very low.
“You’re always looking to give things a nudge in the right direction depending on how your results are going and we’re looking no further than this Saturday’s game.”
15. James Marshall, 14. Joe Cokanasiga, 13. Tom Fowlie, 12. Johnny Williams, 11. Alex Lewington, 10. Theo Brophy Clews, 9. Piet van Zyl.
1. Ben Franks, 2. David Paice, 3. Ollie Hoskins, 4. Franco van der Merwe (captain), 5. Josh McNally, 6. Jake Schatz, 7. Max Northcote-Green, 8. Ofisa Treviranus.
16. Dave Porecki, 17. Gordon Reid, 18. Petrus Du Plessis, 19. Sebastian De Chaves, 20. Josh Basham, 21. Scott Steele, 22. Tommy Bell, 23. Aseli Tikoirotuma.
The Exiles face a difficult end of season run-in with home games against the Aviva Premiership’s top two teams, Exeter Chiefs (15th April) and Saracens (29th April) respectively, to come in Rounds 20 and 21, before a Round 22 away game against Bath on 5th May.