Exiles excited to be back after Covid setbacks

London Irish co-captain Blair Cowan says his side are ready to take out their frustrations on local rivals Harlequins on Sunday following the Covid-19 dramas that have disrupted their season.

The Exiles’ campaign was thrown into turmoil when members of the squad tested positive for coronavirus ahead of the Boxing Day clash with Bath and again before the match against Northampton last weekend.

New Zealand-born Scotland international Cowan admits the situation has been very difficult, but said there’s an appreciation amongst the players that given the dire circumstances many face around the country they have no right to feel sorry for themselves.

“It’s at the stage now where we just have to confirm to the new guidelines,” Cowan said.

“We go in on Monday and get tested and it’s social distancing and masking up.

“When we are out on the field there are no huddles in training and off the field there are shields around the equipment at the gym.

“We are on takeaway meals so we are not in the same space at the training ground.

“It’s everything you’d expect from how society is now but the boys are doing well to adjusting.

“But we are the minority that are allowed to continue doing what we love when everyone else is in a complete lockdown.

“We just need to stay on top of what we have to do to keep playing.”

Sunday’s clash with their former landlords at The Stoop will be the first match Irish have played since December 20 and Cowan said the intensity in training noticeably increased after players were given the go ahead to return to action.

“We had one of our best training sessions yesterday, the energy levels were so high as the boys were just so excited to be engaged in something,” he said.

“After two weeks away from it and nothing to do we just want to play rugby and are ready to rip in against Quins.”

Sunday’s match will also see Australia international lock Rob Simmons make his long-awaited debut for the club after arriving in the UK six weeks ago.

Cowan admitted he and his teammates have felt concern for him and his family as they try and settle in a new country during a worldwide pandemic that does not permit social gatherings.

“I really feel for him and his family,” Cowan said.

“He is stepping away from Australia in the middle of summer where it is all beers and barbecues and he’s come into the country when the temperatures are in the minuses.

“There has not been a great deal we can do. We can’t invite him around to our houses for dinner obviously.

“All we can do is keep the lines of communications open and make sure everything is OK and let us know if there is anything we can do for him.

“He just wants to get out and play rugby, it’s the environment he knows and he can then start gelling with the boys.”