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Skivington braced for return to former club 8 months after awkward exit

By Liam Heagney

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George Skivington is looking forward to his first visit to London Irish eight months after he quit his assistant coach role to take over at Gallagher Premiership rivals Gloucester, a decision that caused acrimony between the two clubs. 

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Skivington was still under contract at Irish when Gloucester recruited him as the successor to Johan Ackermann and the Exiles club claimed the approach had broken the league’s code of conduct. 

There has been no public indication that the dispute was eventually settled and Skivington refused to talk about his change of allegiance when he first faced the media in August, stating: “I’m not going to talk about that, thanks. I’m not going there.”

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Jonny Wilkinson and Gregor Townsend guest on RugbyPass All Access ahead of Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash
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Jonny Wilkinson and Gregor Townsend guest on RugbyPass All Access ahead of Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash

Since then, though, Gloucester played Irish at Kingsholm, winning 36-23 when the teams met last September. Now Skivington is set to make his first trip back to his old club and he was enthusiastic about the prospect. 

“I’m looking forward to seeing the stadium because I never actually saw it,” he said ahead of Saturday’s renewal at the new Community Stadium in Brentford. 

“I was a part of building where they [Irish] are now over a good few years and I have got a lot of friends there. I look forward to seeing them face to face and I look forward to getting stuck in and having a good game of rugby hopefully.”

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Irish suffered relegation during Skivington’s time coaching there under Declan Kidney, but they have since rebuilt and are now enjoying their second season back in the Premiership knowing that a win over bottom club Gloucester will take them into the top half of the table. 

Skivington sees similarities between the rebuild that has now commenced at Gloucester and what Irish went through – although he will, of course, want to ensure relegation isn’t part of that process. 

“They [Irish] are playing great rugby. I was part of that process of going through the last few years getting there. A few years ago it was pretty painful work at Irish, getting the process and foundations in place, and now they are really prospering off that period. They are in good form and I expect they will do good things this year. 

“Different players, different club, different processes but I have been through this before when it was London Irish. Three or four years ago we were fighting really hard and decided, ‘Let’s go down this route and rebuild this properly’. That is what we did for that period. 

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“I knew when I left London Irish I was leaving at the point where it would probably kick on and at the back end of last season pre-covid London Irish were starting to win games and creeping up the table. 

“It was a painful process. You sort of forget from the outside when things are going well for teams the pain they have been through to get there. From my point of view, I have been in this process before and London Irish is going well off the back of years of building correctly.”

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Skivington braced for return to former club 8 months after awkward exit

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