15 for 10: London Irish - an all-decade XV
It’s been a tough decade for London Irish who, in addition to having spent a couple of seasons in the Greene King IPA Championship, have had to deal with a significant exodus of players, and that is represented in their 15 for 10 team.
Bath have become notorious for their plucking of the best talents from Irish and bringing them down the M4 to the Rec, although the club have haemorrhaged players in all directions, with the East Midlands and France also popular destinations for top-end players to emerge from the club’s productive academy.
The XV below leans heavily on the earlier part of the 2010’s, when there were still present a number of the members of the side that almost tasted Gallagher Premiership success in 2009. Let us know who you think we missed.
- Delon Armitage
It was a tough choice between Armitage and Tom Homer, with the latter having more predominately served the club over the past decade, though Armitage brought genuine game-changing ability to the full-back spot. Armitage had been establishing himself a regular in the England side during those last few years before he left for Toulon.
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- Topsy Ojo
There can be no debate here, with Ojo arguably having been the most dedicated and committed servant to Irish in the professional era. The wing made over 300 appearances for the club during his storied career and was unlucky not to add to the two England caps he won back in 2008. He scored tries for fun for Irish and following his retirement this past summer, the baton is ready to be handed over to Ben Loader.
- Jonathan Joseph
Perhaps the biggest of losses for Irish in their relatively recent exodus of players, Joseph may have cemented himself as an international at Bath, but he laid the foundations for those achievements at the Madejski Stadium. He sparkled earlier in the decade for the club and looked for all money to be the type of player that Irish needed to keep themselves competitive in the top half of the table.
- Seilala Mapusua
Mapusua’s time at Irish did roll on into the 2010’s and he ticks the box of a true cult hero for the club. His powerful carries up the middle kept defences honest and allowed the fleeter players, such as Ojo, Armitage and Joseph, to excel outside of him. Plenty of inside centres have come since, but none that matched Mapusua’s consistent impact on the field.
- Sailosi Tagicakibau
This was perhaps the toughest position to pick, with Ojo having so comfortably wrapped up the spot on the other wing. Marland Yarde was highly effective for Irish, as were Alex Lewington and Andrew Fenby, whilst Anthony Watson probably left the club too early in his career to warrant genuine consideration, despite incredible ability. Tagicakibau’s final four years with Irish all came in this decade and his offensive skills made him one of the most exciting players to watch in the Premiership over that period.
- Stephen Myler
Myler is only a recent addition and he has arrived at the tail-end of his career, although he has helped Irish get out of the Championship and make a very impressive start to their 2019/20 Premiership campaign. Shane Geraghty’s time came in the 2000’s, Dan Bowden had his moments and both Jacob Atkins and Theo Brophy Clews will hope to feature more in the 2020’s, leaving this as Myler’s spot.
- Paul Hodgson
Along with Armitage and Ojo, Hodgson was one of the carryovers from the side that came so close to sealing the Premiership title in 2009. He was on the cusp of the England XV at the beginning of this decade and influenced games with his sniping runs, quick tempo and accurate distribution, all of which narrowly sees him pip Tomas O’Leary.
- Alex Corbisiero
Before he linked up with Northampton Saints and began to suffer the injuries that brought a premature end to his career, Corbisiero shone for Irish. He was rapidly on his way to becoming one of the most dominant scrummagers in European rugby and it is probably fair to say that since he departed in 2013, Irish have never had one of the top set-pieces in English rugby.
- David Paice
Possibly the only player who can give Ojo a run for his money as the most dedicated servant of London Irish in the professional era, Paice made over 250 appearances for Irish from the coalface of the front row. He also bore the burden of captaincy for many of those appearances and was another to force his way into England contention thanks to his consistent performances at club level.
- Halani Aulika
There has been plenty of change at tighthead for Irish over the past 10 years and we have opted here for the most consistent performer, who locked down the position for the four years he spent at the club. There’s an honourable mention for Ben Franks, who impressed in flashes in a shorter spell, although arguably wasn’t as valuable to the club as Aulika.
- Bob Casey
Another cult hero of Irish, Casey finished his career with the club in 2012, after a final couple of years of excellent service. The physical lock was one part of a long-established double act in the Irish engine room that was one of the leading combinations in the Premiership at the time.
- Nick Kennedy
Speaking of that double act, Kennedy was Casey’s partner in the second row and the two forged a highly effective combination. The England international was one of the best lineout forwards in the Premiership at the time and was rewarded with a handful of England caps, before he made the move to Toulon in 2012, joining teammate Armitage in calling the south of France home.
- Declan Danaher
Like Ojo, Danaher was another one-club man at Irish and amassed over 275 appearances in the green jersey, before finally calling it a day in 2014. He was a workhorse on the flank for the Exiles and in addition to the blood, sweat and tears he put into the jersey, he is now also influencing the club as its defence coach. Chris Hala’ufia warrants a very honourable mention, too.
- Blair Cowan
A tough competition between Cowan and Armitage, the latter of whom brought international-calibre ability to the table, although his departure earlier in the decade, in contrast to Cowan’s six years of service, sees the New Zealander just steal the spot. Wherever he has been deployed in the club’s back row, Cowan has provided go forward and influential breakdown ability.
- Ofisa Treviranus
Arguably the most iconic Irish player of the 2010’s, Treviranus’ trademark physicality as a ball-carrier has characterised Irish over the past 10 years. The Samoan has never taken a backward step for the club and had the team’s fortunes been better over that period of time, his stock as a player would have been treated with much more appreciation.
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