Top-four talk won’t distract Irish, says boss Kidney

London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney insists his side cannot allow themselves to be distracted by the prospect of a first Gallagher Premiership top-four finish in 13 years.

The fifth-placed Exiles can move above Northampton, who sit in fourth, if they beat the Saints at the Gtech Community Stadium on Saturday and put themselves in pole position for a play-off berth with just two fixtures of the season remaining against leaders Saracens and former champions Exeter.

A crowd of over 15,000 is expected for the game, which also doubles up as the club’s annual St Patrick’s Festival with events taking place before and after the match in and around the stadium.

“We’re not thinking about the top-four because at the moment the table is false,” Kidney said.

“All we can worry about is this match and then we have a month until our next (league) game which will present other challenges which we will have to prepare for.”

The last time Irish reached the play-offs they beat Harlequins in the semi-finals but went down 10-9 to Leicester in the 2008/09 season decider at Twickenham.

Irish have beaten the Saints just once in the previous nine meetings between the sides but did overcome them comfortably in the semi-finals of the Premiership Cup last month.

However, Kidney admits he’s wary of facing a side who will be at full strength with the return of England internationals David Ribbans, Lewis Ludlam and Alex Mitchell.

“We’ve had to concentrate very hard to get ourselves ready as we have an immense task to overturn a very good side,” Kidney said.

“They have a lot of England players coming back in and will be hungry to play having been out for a while.

“They play a good style and it has the makings of a very good game but I wouldn’t like to guess when our last positive (league) result against them was.”