London Irish boss speaks ahead of Stormers challenge

London Irish boss speaks ahead of Stormers challenge

After coming away from Montpellier empty-handed, the Exiles find themselves in a hot and summery Cape Town where they will do battle with the reigning URC champions, the Stormers.


After an electric first half from the hosts, London Irish, last weekend, Montpellier showed some undeniable quality as they rolled their sleeves up in the second stanza and pulled the game back. It was, of course, no help to Irish that hooker Augustin Creevy was given his marching orders after a high tackle, leaving his side a man short.




The Stormers experienced a Champions Cup baptism of fire in Round 1 when they faced Clermont at Stade Marcel Michelin. Like Irish last weekend, the Stormers looked promising in the first half but faded in the second:




Exiles’ boss Declan Kidney spoke about the tempering the emotions and the focus in a game such as this.


“Hopefully we won’t fully [discard emotions], because we can use them to good effect going into Saturday.


“We have to move onto the next match, but you always want to keep some positive energy from the last time out.


“You don’t want to be talking about learning all of the time, but like every side, you will pick up things from every match.


“I have no doubt the boys will use those to their advantage, we haven’t been making repeat errors and that shows that they are looking to improve on all aspects of play in what we have been doing during the week.”


Kidney also touched on the challenge of acclimatising from the cold European winter to the hot South African summer.


“Thankfully, we had an eight-day turnaround, and the medics were first in with the players to make sure we had an up-to-date medical report to make the best call on players’ fitness levels.


“You can make a call on Monday for your team to go through plays, but that might be quite different to the team come Friday, as some players have regained fitness, but they might not know the plays and that could go against them too.


“We had to make those decisions a lot earlier, and on top of that you have to get there.


“It’s probably a two-week logistical challenge, we will have the same coming back for a big match at Saracens, but we have excellent people working here who deal with whatever is thrown at them.


“We’re blessed to be here to play the game, it has challenges with the climate being one, but it also has benefits of being together for a while, which isn’t what always happens.”


After a decade-long absence from the Champions Cup, Kidney and his charges are relishing the step up in competition.


“It is that one step away from international rugby, we qualified as the eighth-place team from England and last week went up against the French champions, and were disappointed with the result,” Kidney continued.


“I’d like to think that shows the improvements we are making, but it is a step up from what we have been competing in for the last 10 years.


“You see all the Test players in these matches, and we had a taste of that against Toulon last year, but you can be only as disappointed as we were last Friday night if you enjoy it as much as we did taking part in it too.”


Kidney is all too wary that the Stormers will be hungry for victory after faltering in the first round.


“We want to win these matches, Stormers will be disappointed too not winning against Clermont, they also started really strongly but that shows the home advantage that they were going up against then.


“They will ask some questions of us, absolutely, but that’s why we want to get into this tournament.


“You want to test yourself against the best and all the boys want to play international rugby, you want to test your skillset and that is what is making us a better side week in, week out.


“We are gaining experiences the whole time through and we have been competitive, but we have to learn how to seal the deal.”


While London Irish’s Premiership campaign will no doubt be boosted by the exposure they will experience against the world’s top foreign clubs, Kidney insists their focus remains on the task at hand this weekend.


“That will be a side benefit, but for now the players want to put the best foot forward for this weekend.


“Making it to the Round of 16 is important, it would be a good step forward for us having not been in the competition for 10 years.


“But we’re more ambitious than that, you can see that in how we went about our business last weekend.


“November was a tricky month for us with just the two fixtures, we’re building into a new competition now and that has allowed us to be fresher for this time of the year.


“We will give it our all, and we’ll see where that takes us.”

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