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Where are they now? The last London Irish team before its collapse

By Liam Heagney
Ben Loader, Ollie Hassell-Collins and Henry Arundell after the London Irish win over Exeter last May (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

It’s now 32 weeks since London Irish played their last Gallagher Premiership match, a 17-14 win over Exeter on May 6 in front of an 11,576 attendance in Brentford – and nearly 28 weeks since the June 7 statement by owner Mick Crossan that he was placing the club into administration the day after the RFU suspended them from taking part in the 2023/24 top-flight.

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Despite fifth place being their highest finish in the league since reaching the 2009 final, administration confirmed that the financially stressed Exiles had become the third club to fold in quick succession, their demise following the early-season collapse of Worcester and Wasps.

It left players and staff scrambling for alternative employment in an already heavily populated market, but the Exiles were in demand and all 23 who played their part in defeating the Chiefs seven months ago secured a contract.

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Thirteen found a new home in the Premiership, six went to the Top 14 in France, two more headed to the URC, with the Championship and National One also welcoming one player each. Here is what has happened to the last London Irish team to take the field in the Premiership:

15. Henry Arundell
One of the Irish players to quickly find alternative employment, the 21-year-old was soon unveiled as a new Racing 92 signing by Stuart Lancaster. Played twice at the Rugby World Cup for England before linking up with the Parisians. He has since put his club career first, signing an extension through to 2026 that has made him ineligible for Test selection.

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14. Ben Loader
Has perhaps made the most curious move of any of the Irish squad, the 25-year-old opting to join the Stormers in Cape Town after six seasons in the Exiles’ first team. Had seemingly caught John Dodson’s eye when the Irish visited South Africa last December and his two-year deal has got off to a decent start, positional flexibility highlighted by starts on both wings and at outside centre.

13. Benhard Janse van Rensburg
The soon-to-be 27-year-old South African was one of the prime reasons why the Irish blossomed in their final two years under Declan Kidney. His performances were always consistently good and he has gone on to flourish at Bristol in the inside centre role.

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12. Rory Jennings
Another whose services were snapped up within weeks of Irish’s demise, Newcastle signing the soon-to-be 28-year-old on a two-year deal. They have used him at both No10 and out-half.

11. Lucio Cinti
The 23-year-old utility joined Saracens before getting stuck into the Test season with Argentina, going on to start in six of his country’s seven games at the Rugby World Cup at outside centre, the position where he made his first new club start in recent weeks.

10. Paddy Jackson
Despite arriving at Irish from Perpignan in 2019 with baggage still attached due to how things had finished up for him the previous year at Ulster, the ex-Ireland international was arguably Kidney’s most effective signing. The soon-to-be 32-year-old is now back in the Top 14 with Lyon on a one-year deal.

9. Ben White
Was always going to be in demand following his quality Guinness Six Nations campaign with Scotland at the top of the year. The 25-year-old felt it best to try out the Top 14 at Toulon and while he was initially used more as a sub than a starter behind Baptiste Serin since his post-World Cup arrival at the club, injury to Serin has opened up the No9 shirt for the Scot.

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1. Danilo Fischetti
The 24-year-old Italian had just a single season in London, joining from Zebre Parma in the summer of 2022 and returning there this season once his country’s World Cup campaign ended.

2. Agustin Creevy
Age could have counted against the 38-year-old but he instead found it to his advantage. Opted to join Sale on a one-year deal rather than switch to France and has impressed, debuting the weekend after playing for Argentina in their bronze medal match versus England in Paris.

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3. Oliver Hoskins
The popular Australian tighthead was part of the fabric at Irish, playing in their two seasons in the Championship. Saracens swooped for the 30-year-old with a two-year offer, but a broken thumb has restricted him to just a single appearance.

4. Api Ratuniyarawa
The 37-year-old, who was at Irish for only a single season after a half-dozen years at Northampton, joined Bayonne as a medical joker but played just once before getting an injury call-up to join Fiji at the World Cup. Without a club, he was picked for the Barbarians to take on Wales in November but wound up arrested. He admitted sexually assaulting three women and will be sentenced at a later date.

5. Rob Simmons
It was March when the 34-year-old former Wallabies international confirmed he would be joining Clermont on a two-year deal. Has quickly become a talisman at the French club, playing the full 80 in six of his eight Top 14 starts.

6. Matt Rogerson
The 30-year-old was a calculated punt by Kidney, signing from Jersey in 2018 after the Irish had been relegated a second time. Went on to enjoy excellent progress with the Londoners, even becoming their skipper. Was picked up by Leicester, who had already signed Ollie Hassell-Collins. Rogerson has started in three of his eight Tigers Premiership appearances.

7. Juan Martin Gonzalez
Scorer of the last Irish points with a try eight minutes from time against the Chiefs, he became the second Argentine to join Saracens. Having played in all his country’s matches at France 2023, the 23-year-old has since made an immediate impact at his new club.

8 So’otala Fa’aso’o
Another who was at Irish for just one season. The 29-year-old went to the World Cup with Samoa but didn’t play. Is now at Perpignan having had pre-Irish spells in the Top 14 with Brive and Racing.

Replacements:
16. Mike Willemse
The well-travelled South African hooker knew he was exiting Irish by the time of his second-half appearance versus Exeter as a sub for Creevy, as he was named by the club in its end-of-season leavers list. The 30-year-old had his future sorted on June 23 when he was unveiled as a new signing by Championship runners-up Ealing.

17. Tarek Haffar
The 22-year-old loosehead rounded off his maiden season in the Irish first-team with a seven-minute cameo from the bench. Signed for Northampton just eight days after the Exiles’ RFU suspension – Phil Dowson had been tracking his progress for a while. Injury, though, meant he only finally debuted for the Saints last weekend off the bench in Glasgow.

18. Lovejoy Chawatama
The 31-year-old tighthead was another with a long service at Irish – six and a half seasons. Played 27 minutes as a sub versus the Chiefs and was soon picked up by Harlequins where he has been an impact player in some Premiership games.

19. Josh Caulfield
Another whose last Irish appearance was 27 minutes. The 26-year-old second row joined Bristol where he continues to mainly be used as a replacement.

20. Tom Pearson
The third player who was a 53rd-minute introduction against Exeter, Pearson followed Haffar and Chunya Munga to Northampton. Before arriving at Franklin’s Gardens, the 24-year-old made an England debut in the Summer Nations Series game away to Wales. Didn’t make the World Cup squad but has impressed at Saints when he is a first-choice back row pick.

21. Chandler Cunningham-South
On a day when the Irish went for a six/two forwards/backs split on their bench, the 20-year-old played the last 15 minutes of their last match. Spoke with RugbyPass in Cape Town before his impressive World Junior Championship with England U20s, during which he agreed to join Chawatama and housemate Will Joseph at Harlequins where his role so far has mostly been as a replacement.

22. Joe Powell
The 29-year-old Australian played the closing 23 minutes of Irish’s final game in his only season at the London club. His Super Rugby background, which included playing for the Brumbies, helped secure his move to Leicester where his old coach Dan McKellar had just taken over.

23. James Stokes
The 32-year-old, who played Irish’s final 13 minutes as a sub for Arundell, started this season at Rosslyn Park in National One where Declan Danaher, one of Kidney’s assistants, now coaches the defence.

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Poorfour 5 hours ago
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