Off the back of six consecutive defeats it would be an understatement to say that London Irish are missing a little bit of sparkle during this festive period. With rumours flying left, right and centre and following multiple Twitter debates with a lot of you about yet another “transitional” season, I thought it was about time I gave you my two pennies worth.
To start with I think it’s important to note that in my opinion Brian Smith isn’t the main reason for London Irish’s demise; however, as Director of Rugby, he is the rather unhappy face of London Irish and ultimately the goat called scape!
Smith has previously spoken out to say “coaching one of the top four clubs is a relatively easy ride. However, when you’re trying to build something from the rubble of previous regimes, you’ve got to dig deep.” Two seasons later this just seems to be another transitional excuse. Take for example the last Premiership game that London Irish played against Gloucester. Out of the fifteen starting players for London Irish ten of those were his signings and the others have received a contract renewal or two under his reign.
With the majority of his starting squad being players he’s signed the ‘inherited squad’ argument does not wash. But when we look at the players he has signed it begs the question about what kind of financial constraints he is working under. It may explain his pragmatic approach to what is turning into yet another disappointing season of under achievement
All hasn’t been well on the coaching/playing front since Smith’s return in 2012. Read between the lines and I’m sure the departure of Commerical Director Jim O’Toole and Strength and Conditioning coach Steve Walsh won’t be the last. Players come, get established, and leave; the back-room shuffles are just as regular. Until they’ve got the club ethos right, no amount of money and new facilities will attract the big players they need to push them up the table. The same problems just seem to be seeping through the freshly painted cracks.
The consortium that came in has not delivered a big time signing that so many supporters were looking for. However, Irish do now have a state of the art training ground; maybe the completion of that has been an off pitch distraction that has not helped.
The team’s success has mainly been built on the success of their academy. This is a strength they have continued to build on by bringing in club legends; Nick Kennedy, Declan Danaher and Paul Hodgson. Whilst their academy is one of their strengths their weakness is retention. The club has seen many international stars graduate including Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Alex Corbisiero and Marland Yarde. With these coaches on board hopefully they can make sure that the up and coming stars are properly grounded in the London Irish way and want to play a part in a successful future.
With Brian Smith’s contract up in the summer, it’s time for some drastic changes whether this is through a new coaching team or a fresh start for Smith remains to be seen. Either way I’m sure we can all agree that the current formula isn’t working. What do you think the solution is? You can continue the debate by tweeting @InTheLoose.