Premiership rival snaps up London Irish's Under-20 World Cup winner Woolstencroft
Saracens have raided London Irish for a second time in a matter of months by signing hooker Tom Woolstencroft.
The England Under-20 World Rugby Championship winner spent a brief spell at Rosslyn Park before catching the eye of Wasps Director of Rugby Dai Young. His time in Coventry was curtailed by injury and he moved on to Irish in October last year after proving his fitness while training with Ealing Trailfinders.
Woolstencroft came through the academy ranks at Bath and made the transition from back row to hooker following advice from ex-Sarries lock Danny Grewcock.
He made his senior debut in the LV= Cup in 2014 and was also part of the Somerset club’s A League-winning team in the same season.
This season, Woolstencroft has made 13 appearances in all competitions for Irish and becomes the second player to swap the Madejski for Allianz Park next term, following in Alex Lewington’s footsteps.
“I’m very grateful to Irish for giving me the opportunity to be back playing this season after a long spell with injury. They’re a great club and I’ve loved my time there,” he said.
“I’m really looking forward to joining Saracens this summer and establishing myself in the squad. It’s a great set up and somewhere to improve as a player.”
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In January 26-year-old winger Lewington confirmed his move to Saracens.
Lewington said: “I’m looking forward to working with the squad and the world class talent that Saracens are lucky enough to have, I’m also looking forward to working with the coaching team, and how they can improve my game.”
“I’ve heard great things about the Saracens environment and I believe I will thrive within it – which should inspire me to push on and improve my game over the next couple of years.”
Lewington has shown loyalty to Irish since joining as a 21-year-old in 2013 and thanked the Reading-based club for their support shown to him since then. He won the Championship with Irish last season as they made their way back into the Aviva Premiership.
It’s been a trying season for London Irish, yesterday they said that their fans “deserve better” as the team face into another fresh year of Championship rugby.
In a statement the club wrote: “Following the conclusion of this weekend’s Round 21 Aviva Premiership fixtures, it has been confirmed that London Irish will be playing in the Championship next season.
“Everyone at Hazelwood – players, management and off-field staff alike are extremely disappointed that the 2017/18 campaign has ended in the way that it has, and we apologise to our supporters that we will again find ourselves in the Championship next season.
“While this season has been very challenging, our supporters have been a shining light and have continued to underline why they are the best supporters in the country with their unwavering support both at home and on the road. We thank them for their tremendous support during trying times.
“They deserve better, and we are committed to making London Irish one of the leading clubs in England, a position we enjoyed less than a decade ago. London Irish’s vision for the future is to compete at the top end of the Gallagher Premiership and to be challenging for European honours, and we believe the building blocks are in place to achieve these objectives.
“It is fair to say that we have learned some valuable lessons over recent years and we will be doing everything to ensure immediate progress and sustainability for the future. With Declan Kidney and Les Kiss in charge, we have international coaches that can take us to the next level and beyond.
“Our squad next season will be a group that cannot just win the Championship but be the core of a successful team in the future too.
“London Irish prides itself on its thriving academy, which continues to produce some of the best young players in the country. Our world class training facilities at Hazelwood are the envy of clubs throughout Europe.
“Mick Crossan remains as committed as ever as our owner and is dedicated to London Irish combining success on the field with the rich traditions and values that have been at the heart of the club since its formation 120 years ago.
“Our aim for 2018/19 is simple – we must win the Championship, and nothing less will do. It will be a journey with its challenges, and we are under no illusions that every other team in the league will be wanting to beat us.
“Nevertheless, we are excited by the longer-term future and the announcements that will be made over the coming weeks and months.
“We hope that all our supporters will continue to join us on our journey at the Madejski Stadium next season.”
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