Newcastle boss Dean Richards is not known for his hyperbole which makes his assertion that London Irish are a “top two” Gallagher Premiership team so intriguing.
Richards gave his verdict as his Newcastle side, currently second in the table, are preparing to face Irish at Brentford on Sunday with the Exiles currently inhabiting a lowly 10th place in the table after significant disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. They received two points following the cancellation of each of the matches with Bath and Northampton.
Despite appearing to be well off the Premiership pace – Irish are eight points behind Falcons – Richards points to the Exiles recruitment that has seen them raid Australian rugby for Adam Coleman, Rob Simmons, Curtis Rona, Nick Phipps and Sekope Kepu. They have been joined at the club by former Argentina captain Agustin Creevy, Tonga’s Steve Mafi Fijian Albert Tuidsue and the Irish international pair of Paddy Jackson and Sean O’Brien. Scotland flanker Blair Cowan has been a long term member of the squad.
Richards has been on a more modest spending spree bringing in Pumas centre Matias Orlando to join a squad featuring homegrown talent supplemented by Samoan prop Logo Mulipola, Scotland flanker Gary Graham, England’s Mark Wilson and veteran England back Toby Flood.
Despite lacking the kind of star names Irish have assembled, it is Falcons who have made the better start suffering just one defeat since gaining promotion to the English top flight. As he prepares for the Irish match Richards told RugbyPass: “London Irish have an unbelievable side on paper and they are top two material. If they put their strongest team out it is a hell of a side we will be facing.
“We are not sure what their style of play is because they haven’t played that many matches and they haven’t put their best side out yet. We have to look at ourselves and then prepare for what you know and if that is little (about the opposition) then so be it. They haven’t changed from a defensive point of view and it depends who they bring into the attack. There are all sorts of traits that haven’t changed but we have hardly seen anything of them.
“We have only had the one loss at Bristol and got back into the groove against Gloucester and so we didn’t really want a break. We are delighted with the start
Richards refused to confirm Mike Brown would be joining the team from Harlequins next season and said: “I can’t tell you anything at all because I don’t talk about speculation.”
15 Tom Parton, 14 Ben Loader, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Nick Phipps, 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke, 2 Agustin Creevy, 3 Sekope Kepu, 4 Steve Mafi, 5 Rob Simmons, 6 Matt Rogerson (c), 7 Seàn O’Brien, 8 Albert Tuisue.
16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Lovejoy Chawatama, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Ben Donnell, 21 Blair Cowan, 22 Ben Meehan, 23 Terrence Hepetema.
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