Last Word on Rugby is refocusing attention on the Gallagher Premiership ahead of the 2021/22 season. We move on to London Irish, who can look forward to their first proper season back in London, with crowds allowed to return.
It can only be stalwart Blair Cowan for this title. He stuck with them through two relegations, a loan spell at Saracens not withstanding.
Cowan was a proper backrow scrapper who gave everything for Irish during his eight years and 153 appearances there. Originally playing for Cornish Pirates when he first arrived in England, he worked his way up to become a Premiership regular and then Scotland international.
In light of this service, Cowan was granted permission to leave his contract early to take up an opportunity in Japan.
Key signing for London Irish 2021/22
Compared to the last couple of seasons, it has been a relatively quiet off-season for the Exiles. It has been a summer of refining their squad and adding depth, rather than signing big international names.
Scrum half Ben White could prove the most influential addition. The nine, who captained Leicester Tigers on occasions last season, could become a fixture for Irish for years to come. He will fill the gap left by Ben Meehan, now at Gloucester, and his short-term replacement Nic Groom, whilst battling with Nick Phipps for the starting spot.
Most valuable players
Fly-half Paddy Jackson was an ever-present last term and will be key to the attack again. Having cut their losses with Waisake Naholo, the exciting trio of Ollie Hassell-Collins, Tom Parton and Ben Loader have claimed the back three spots as their own.
Of all the star international names in the pack, it is hooker Agustín Creevy who can make the biggest difference. The vastly experienced Puma is the model of consistency, as well as offering agility around the park that suits Irish’s style.
London Irish 2021/22 Gallagher Premiership focus
Having bounced between the Premiership and Championship, Irish now seem settled in the Premiership again. Having just missed out on Champions Cup rugby in 2020/21, that will definitely be the target this season. They have proved themselves very capable of scoring tries, with nine TBPs last time out.
However these points masked the fact they won the second lowest amount of games in the league, despite finishing ninth. Therefore defence will be key to ensure they don’t fall the wrong side of too many try-fests again.
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