In-form London Irish ready for Leicester

London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney believes the team’s recent fightback to draw with leaders Bristol has instilled a new-found belief among his players.

The Exiles, who sit in seventh spot on the Premiership table, won at Wasps last Saturday six days after coming back from 31-6 down to hold the Bears 34-34 at Brentford.

Irish have lost five matches this season, two which were due to Covid-19-enforced postponements, and head to Leicester on Friday night, brimming with confidence and with the opportunity to potentially move into the top-four.

“The belief has been building, the players after that (Bristol) match were semi-disappointed not to have won it because they know what we are building,” Kidney said.

“At the end of the day where we end up in the league is where we end up in the league but if we can be as good as we can be in ourselves that is an achievement.

“It’s quite an ambitious thing to do because we have a group of players that have come together from many corners of the world.

“In a year of a pandemic where we had two games taken away from us the other seven, drew two, three lost, won three it’s about middle of the table and we are where we deserve to be.”

It will be three years ago next week that Kidney arrived at the club alongside head coach Les Kiss, and began the task of reviving the fortunes of the Exiles, who have struggled to attract and keep their home-grown players while being domiciled in Reading for the previous 20 years.

Now back in the capital and playing at the new Brentford Community Stadium, former Ireland and Munster supremo Kidney believes the club have the potential and now the venue to become a powerhouse in the English game.

“It’s always dangerous walking in with a three or five-year plan at a club because you never know whether you’ll be there to see it out,” Kidney said.

“This is actually a massive club, the potential of it is huge.

“The club went to America a couple of years ago for a match and got 20,000 at it.

“The amateur side of the club hosts one of the biggest tournaments (in Europe) with over 2,000 kids at it.

“We are just on a upward cycle and growing into it. I know I am biased because we play our home matches at it, but moving to Brentford has been huge, it’s a fantastic arena for rugby.

“If we’re still playing well and the fans are back in, I can guarantee there will be come atmosphere. It will be a great day out for everyone.

“In terms of growth, there is a lot more to come.”