London Irish will be without Australian international lock Adam Coleman for Saturday’s Premiership season opener against Worcester.
Coleman, who joined the Exiles just under 12 months ago after being tempted away from Super Rugby side Melbourne Rebels, underwent shoulder surgery before the season delayed 2019/20 season restarted in July.
Director of rugby Declan Kidney is hopeful the six-foot-eight Wallabies forward will be fit for the club’s first home match at the Brentford Community Stadium against Leicester next week but said the decision to send Coleman for surgery when the team was struggling in the second half of last season will be vindicated.
“We were hoping to have Adam back but he is probably a week or two away,” Kidney said.
“We took decision then that we had to get him right for the season coming. Had Adam got operated on two or three weeks ago he would have missed large chunks of this season.
All Blacks World Cup-winning winger Waisake Naholo is also out as he continues his recovery from the knee surgery he underwent in New Zealand in April.
Like Coleman, Naholo went under the knife rather than play when the season restarted and could be fit to face Leicester next week after returning to training last.
“Waisake has been training away and it will be good to have that experience back in the team.”
Irish lost eight of their last nine matches, but managed to avoid finishing second-bottom with a shock win over champions Exeter in the penultimate game of the season in September, but Kidney believes the team will be better for that experience.
“Those matches we played, many didn’t go the way we wanted to them in terms of results, but we knew the foundations we were putting in to place.
“It would have been nice to have qualified for Europe but given we were a promoted side and we wanted to make sure we stayed in the Premiership by right.
“That is why the win we did have was very important to us.”
Team: Tom Homer, Ben Loader, Curtis Rona, Billy Meakes, Ollie Hassell-Collins, Paddy Jackson, Ben Meehan; Harry Elrington, Motu Matu’u, Sekope Kepu, George Nott, Andrei Mahu, Ben Donnell, Sean O’Brien, Matt Rogerson (capt).
Replacements: Agustin Creevy, Allan Dell, Ollie Hoskins, Chunya Munga, Blair Cowan, Nick Phipps, Theo Brophy Clews, Tom Parton