London Irish aren’t tipped for the dizzy heights of the playoffs this season; in fact the only thing that they are favourites for is the battle for relegation. This summer saw another mass exodus of talent away from the club, in fact to add insult to injury most are tipped as ‘one’s to watch’ at their new respective clubs; Antony Watson, David Sisi and Jack Moates to name but a few. Despite this, there are still some cracking players at Sunbury with the potential to take themselves and the club to much higher places than is predicted for them. This season an influx of Championship talent and Academy members will be the driving force behind the new look Irish squad. Here are a few names that you might want to keep an eye on;
A familiar name to many due to the fact last season Marland pushed himself into the England Camp and onto the plane to Argentina despite London Irish’s results in the Aviva Premiership being less than pretty! The 21 year old winger combines blistering pace with an ability to punch holes in the opposition defence, creating try scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates. Yarde is not one of these players who chokes under pressure, he openly admits that he loves big games… in fact the bigger the stage, the better! Only an ill-timed injury knocked Marland behind Christian Wade and co, so expect to see him pushing hard in the Aviva Premiership for London Irish and for England again, if he is given the chance.
Double try scorer in the recent pre-season match again Wasps, Jon Fisher is another in a long line of excellent players coming out of the London Irish Academy system. Jon has the ability to play at Flanker, Lock or No. 8 and he’ll be keen to get a full season under his belt after missing half of last with a broken arm. Jon is a fantastic ball carrier, who combines pace and power he will be looking to try to keep the big Chris Hala’ufia on the bench this season.
Having lost his mentor, Alex Corbisiero, to Northampton Saints now is the time for Tom Smallbone to go it alone in the big bad world of the Aviva Premiership. Having been at Irish since the age of 4 starting for his boyhood club and leading the forwards in the Aviva Premiership is the objective for this season. The 17st 4lb loosehead prop is a consummate professional spending hours off the pitch analysing fellow looseheads and the opposition tightheads to work out exactly how to derail them. He will want to put all of this into practice now to break through into the starting XV and then march towards the England Saxons squad.
A product of the Leicester Tigers Academy, scoring 7 tries in 15 games for Nottingham and a LV A League winner in 2011/2 Alex’s career to date has been quite fruitful. A winger with pace to rival Mr Yarde and the vision to go with it there is no doubt that he will be pushing his more experienced team-mates all the way. He reminds me a lot of Quins’ Charlie Walker last season and look far he has come in a year.
Guy Armitage is the least well known of the Armitage Brothers, after a brief pre-season in Toulon last year he returned on to London Irish in search of game time before re-signing at the end of last season for 2 years. The 6ft 5ins, 17st 7lbs Centre is a hybrid of his two brothers, he has the power of Steffan and the pace of Delon and uses both qualities to blistering effect. Guy is still relatively unknown and under-rated outside of Sunbury however Brian Smith believes that he is “one of the most dynamic power centres in the country” and I’m pretty sure after the first few games of the season everyone else will be singing his praises too.