One of the long-running jokes in English rugby is that of London Irish’s role as an academy for Bath, but the Greene King IPA Championship side took a big step today towards dispelling that notion.
Irish currently top the Championship table with 44 points – five points clear of closest rivals Ealing Trailfinders – and have given further cheer to fans by announcing the contract extensions of seven of the club’s brightest prospects.
In recent years, Irish have lost Jonathan Joseph, Anthony Watson, Tom Homer and Matt Garvey to Bath, as well as Marland Yarde, Alex Corbisiero and Jamie Gibson to Harlequins, Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers respectively.
New deals for Jacob Atkins, Rory Brand, Isaac Curtis-Harris, Ollie Hassell-Collins, Ben Loader, Tom Parton and Matt Williams should help Irish re-establish themselves as a club where players can stay and achieve their ambitions, rather than having to look elsewhere.
Parton, Loader, Brand and Williams, all 20, were part of the England squad that made it to the final of the World Rugby U20 Championship last summer, with Parton and Brand also having been involved in the 2017 tournament, when they also made it to the final. Hassell-Collins, 19, has been selected in the England U20 EPS this season and is set to feature in the coming months during the U20 Six Nations.
Combined with Curtis-Harris and Atkins, the seven players have all featured for the Irish first team this season, in the Championship, Championship Cup, or both, with Loader and Parton having been a regular part of the back three, in particular.
Having recently announced the club will be moving to the new Brentford Community Stadium next season, these six players will be hoping that their experiences in the Championship this season, should they do enough to secure promotion, see them regularly on show in west London next season in the Gallagher Premiership.
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