Nickname: The Exiles
Years in Top Tier: 21
Last Year: 10th in Prem (36 Points), Group Stage in Amlin Challenge Cup & Anglo-Welsh Cup
Europe: Challenge Cup
Director of Rugby: Brian Smith
In: Tom Court (Ulster), Luke Narraway (Perpignan), Tom Guest (Harlequins), Eoin Griffin (Connacht), James Short (Saracens(Wasps Loan)), Geoff Cross (Edinburgh), Sean Cox (Edinburgh), Dan Leo (Perpignan), Scott Steele (Leicester), Conor Gilsenan (Leinster), Chris Noakes (Auckland Blues)
Out: Marland Yarde (Harlequins), James O’Connor (Toulon), Declan Danaher (Retirement), Ian Gough (Newport), Ian Humphreys (Ulster), Chris Halaufia (Llanelli), John Yapp (Wasps), Setaimata Sa (Hull FC RL), Bryn Evans (Biarritz), Sailosi Tagicakibau (Wasps), Jon Fisher (Northampton-Trial), Pat Phibbs (Unknown)
Irish supremeo Brian Smith came out at the Premiership’s launch last week with the vow that Irish “want to challenge for silverware”. Well you can’t fault the man for ambition.
To be fair he did qualify that we was looking to compete for the LV Cup and for the Challenge Cup, rather than some heady claim to be a top four force just yet. For a long time last season Irish were embroiled in the relegation dog fight and were tipped for the drop by this very blog but a strong second half of the season extinguished any danger. The Rugby Paper has them for the drop season.
The Exiles have suffered some serious losses this summer with their two best players moving on; Marlon Yarde has decamped across London for Harlequins while James O’Conner is having a brief sojourn with Toulon before rejoining the Queensland Reds.
Also moving on our players like Danaher, Halaufia and Tagicakibau who have been mainstays of the side for a number of years.
Some serious beef has been imported up front with accidental Lion Tom Court, Geoff Cross and Tom Guest singing plus Perpignan pair Luke Narraway and Dan Leo. In the backs the most important signing will be Chris Noakes the kiwi fly half, if he can establish himself then Shane Geraghty will be free to be a secondary play maker in the centres, his most effective role.
Without a dominant home fortress Irish will always be vulnerable to a slide in fortunes but last season they seemed to have turned a corner. With a reliable goal kicker in Homer, a decent looking pack and an ambitious mindset Irish look set to continue in lower mid table with the ability to surprise the bigger sides as Saracens found to their cost last season.