London Irish’s rebuild ahead of their potential re-entry into the Premiership is fast approaching a crescendo, with confirmation of the signing of British and Irish Lions backrow Sean O’Brien to the club today making waves across social media.
Nick Phipps, Curtis Rona and now O’Brien have Irish fans salivating at the a potential starting XV for next season. The club already announced new deals for Jacob Atkins, Rory Brand, Isaac Curtis-Harris, Ollie Hassell-Collins, Ben Loader, Tom Parton and Matt Williams, and they’re shaping up to have a potentially super competitive squad for a potential return into the Gallagher Premiership next season.
2019/20 signings so far:
• 147 international caps
• Two British & Irish Lions tourists
— London Irish (@LiRFC) February 11, 2019
Here RugbyPass talks a look at what a starting XV could look like if they land some more of their ‘most wanted’ stars.
15 Alivereti Veitokani
While it’s a tough call on the ex-England U20s fullback Tom Parton who has largely laid claimed to the position this season – the former Fijian Drua playmaker was key to his side’s National Rugby Championship success in 2018 and lit up the competition with his fast footwork, audacious offloads and strong support play. Not a household name but watch this space.
14 Luke McLean
Italian international McLean has the benefit of international experience and has become one of the first names on the teamsheet this season. The Aussie born wing can also slot in at fullback.
13 Curtis Rona
The powerful former NRL player has made a relatively seamless transition to union with the Waratahs and Wallbies respectively, and at 26, the 6’4, 102kg winger cum centre is in his prime. Rona made his name with NRL clubs North Queensland Cowboys and Canterbury Bulldogs before switching codes to join Western Force in 2016, where his performances were rewarded with a call-up into the 2017 Australian national squad.
12 Bryce Campbell
The hard-running American who had been playing his rugby at Colorado-based side Glendale Raptors before joining London Irish in the summer of 2018. The no-nonsense American is one a number of veteran centres in the squad, including Brendan Macken, Fergus Mulcrone, Ciaran Hearn and Terrence Hepetema.
11 Waisake Naholo
Could it really be true? RugbyPass understands that the All Black winger is now top of London Irish’s wishlist and that it is they – and not Wasps – who are leading the chase to sign the speedster. A devastating finisher who has done little wrong in an All Black jersey.
10 Paddy Jackson
While he may have to share the position with former England and Northampton Saints 10 Stephen Myler, there is no denying that Jackson is – at his best – a tremendous talent. He’s been dogged by off field controversey and has had a nightmare season with Perpignan, but if he does sign for London Irish fans can expect fireworks if his pack deliver him frontfoot ball.
9 Nick Phipps
70-cap Wallaby Phipps is another ‘statement of intent’ signing from the club. He will also bring no small amount of ‘craic’ with him. The Aussie is infamous for both his on and off-field antics – including disciplinary action taken against him for urinating against a public bar and pushing over a medic during a Rugby Championship match.
8 Steve Mafi
RugbyPass understands that Mafi is set to sign from French champions Castre. If he were to do so, he would add both experiences and dynamism around the park. He also offers utility as a player who can play across the back five of the scrum.
7 Sean O’Brien
The Tullow Tank is the club’s most high profile signing to date, and if they can keep the Leinsterman fit, he could be a devastating prospect in the Premiership. RugbyPass reported he will earning in region of £450,000, so the club will be eager to get the most out of the 31-year-old. Like Mafi, has the ability to play any position in the backrow.
2?? British & Irish Lions tours
5??4?? Ireland caps
4?? Champions Cup titles
1??2??2?? appearances for Leinster
4?? Pro 14 titles
— London Irish (@LiRFC) February 11, 2019
6 TJ Ioane
TJ Ioane, who joined from Sale Sharks, is a current Samoan international back-rower, winning the most recent of his 17 caps during this summer’s Pacific Nations Cup and Rugby World Cup qualifiers.
5 Adam Coleman
Another massive potential signing for Irish, the giant Wallaby secondrow looks set to transfer from the Waratahs to London for next season. At 6’8 and 122kg the agressive Australian will certainly add bulk and experience to Declan Kidney’s side.
4 Franco van der Merwe
The big South African has become a mainstay at Irish since he arrived from Ulster in 2017. After making just under 200 appearances for South African side the Lions, van der Merwe made the switch to fellow Super Rugby outfit the Sharks in 2013 prior to joining PRO 14 club Ulster a year later.
3 Ollie Hoskins
Twenty-six-year-old Australian prop Ollie Hoskins joined London Irish from Western Force in the build up to the 2016/17 season. Hoskins has represented Australia at Under-20 level and made 26 Super Rugby appearances for the Force. He may not be a household name, but he has managed to hold onto the tighthead berth, with former Leicester Tigers prop Pat Cilliers in hot pursuit.
2 Saia Fainga’a
Wallaby Fainga’a made his Super Rugby debut for the Brumbies in 2006 and had a two-year stint with the Canberra-based club, before moving to Queensland Reds where he spent seven seasons. Has become an important part of the London Irish pack already.
1 Allan Dell
Capped 13 times by Scotland, the loosehead prop hails from South Africa and represented their U20s four times in 2012. The prop is currently ranked 11th in his position in the Six Nations by the RugbyPass Index, and 41st in the world with a score of 73.
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