After last weekend’s huge statement win over Saracens, London Irish face another big test of the side’s resurgence in 2022. In Manchester on Friday night, it is Sale v London Irish who, like Exiles themselves, are well in the mix of things in the Gallagher Premiership.
Despite losing Rob Simmons to a knock on the leg in the pre-match warm up, his replacement George Nott after 40 minutes to a head injury and facing two periods with just 14 men on the field of play, Irish stayed resilient to overcome adversity to claim a 32-30 bonus-point win at the Brentford Community Stadium last Saturday afternoon.
This week, they face another big test as they take on Alex Sandersen’s Sale Sharks at the AJ Bell Stadium and with a win, they would further strengthen their ambitions of a highest as possible finish in the league. However, saying it is much harder than achieving it and this was no secret as assistant coach Brad Davis revealed this week as he sat down with the media.
Talking ahead of the game, Davis said that while Saturday’s win was in the memory, it had to go forgotten as the team started to prepare for this week’s fixture against the Sharks. Davis said: ”We had to forget the Saracens result as early as Tuesday maybe as we prepare for Sale because we know that it will not be an easy game and we have to be focused especially on a Friday night in Manchester.”
Sale v London Irish; another big test for 2022 resurgence
Davis is absolutely right too! Sale is a very dangerous opponent to go up against and especially as like he said: “They have only lost one of their last five games and there are some big wins over Leicester, Harlequins, and Northampton just last week.”
As things stand in all, Sale has eight wins this season with seven of those wins having come at home. Seeing off Bath, Harlequins, Northampton, Wasps, Leicester, and Worcester. With the exception of Bath and Worcester, the sides that Sale have seen off at home have all had one thing in common and that’s chasing a potential top 4 finish and being well in the fight too!
Leicester are of course well clear of the pack at the top of the Gallagher Premiership table but with just seven points now separating Quins in fourth, and Northampton at 9th. A defeat at any point could be damaging for those in the chasing pack trying to make seven fit into two.
When the two sides meet on Friday night, they will be no strangers to each other after their crazy round two draw earlier in the season. A brace of tries from Tom Parton either side of a try from Curtis Rona, saw Irish come back from 14-31 down at halftime to hold the Sharks scoreless in the second 40, claiming a stunning 31-31 draw.
Paddy Jackson hit the posts from a penalty with the clock in the red just past the 80th minute nearly snatching a win for Irish but it wasn’t to be. Irish will of course be hoping that it’s not that close this time around and with the kind of performance they showed against Saracens, they stand every chance on Friday night but again, it won’t be an easy task.
If the Exiles are to win the Sale v London Irish clash Friday, then they will have to do it without George Nott, who after suffered a head injury on Saturday and, despite initially passing his HIA check, didn’t return after halftime. The former Sale Sharks forward is now in the concussion protocols and therefore will not be available for selection against his former club.
Speaking about that and also a few other selection issues, Brad Davis said: ”George (Nott) is now in the protocols so he will have to pass that and tick those boxes before he can return to action. Rob Simmons took a knock to his leg in the warm-up against Saracens so we will see with him. There will be a few late fitness checks for sure but other than that, everyone came through ok.”
Another potential doubt for the game was Adam Coleman after he was handed a red card by referee Hamish Smales for a tackle on Sarries’ Alex Lewington. However, the lock forward faced a disciplinary panel on Tuesday night regarding the red card where the panel concluded, by majority, that the incident didn’t not warrant a red card and it was rescinded. He will be available for selection immediately.
Coleman also hurt himself in the coming together of the players and stayed down on the floor for a fair amount of time but he is said to be feeling fine. Davis did say though that Coleman described feeling “hungover without having a drink” initially.
Injury and International call ups hinder London Irish preparations
Finally, two players who will definitely not be available for Irish on Friday night are Scottish backs Ben White and Kyle Rowe. The Scottish pair were announced as part of Gregor Townsend’s Scotland squad for their Guinness Six Nations clash with France at Murrayfield next Saturday.
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Good luck, Ben! pic.twitter.com/NDZjIFFDw5
— London Irish (@londonirish) February 24, 2022
White will be looking to add to his three caps while if Rowe is to be involved, he will be making his debut for his country. When asked about this, Davis said; “it’s a compliment to the team but also a big compliment to the hard work and growth of the two players, For Kyle, it’s great to see as despite coming down from Edinburgh, this one feels like one of our own”.
With the launch of Premiership Rugby’s new streaming service PRTV set to go live this weekend, Last Word on Rugby asked Davis what he thought of the idea and how he things it will impact the growth of the game as we move forward. He explained; ”I think it’s a great idea, you have times where you are on the coach after a game or something or you just want to watch a game but can’t, so for this to be a thing now, I think it’s a great idea and I will definitely be using it myself.
“I think it will definitely have a positive effect in terms of growing the game and I certainly hope it does”.
Gallagher Premiership Round 18: Sale v London Irish, Friday February 25.
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