Exiles to re-establish themselves in Premiership

Brian Smith believes London Irish are capable of re-establishing themselves among the Aviva Premiership Rugby elite this season – but has vowed to do it his way by blooding his young guns.

Irish kick off their campaign against 2010/11 Aviva Premiership Rugby champions Saracens at the tenth annual London Double Header at Twickenham on Saturday 7 September.
Smith’s side finished ninth last term and he has recruited heavily, in an effort to fire them up the table, by adding 13 new players to the squad.

They have also retained the services of England wing Marland Yarde after losing a number of key players to opposition clubs, including England duo Jonathan Joseph and Alex Corbisiero.

And Smith insists he will not be afraid to turn to the club’s youngsters as they look to find the strength in depth needed to compete with the league’s best sides.

“We’re on a journey and setting out to re-establish ourselves as contenders,” said Smith, speaking at the Aviva Premiership Rugby launch.

“I think if you look at the big super squads, teams like Sarries and Leicester who have 50 odd players, they have massive strength in depth.

“Those clubs with massive budgets and resources go deeper than the rest of the league but we’re quite comfortable with the squad we’ve got.

“We’re a club looking to grow. We’ve always been a club that’s given the youngsters a chance and that’s one of our points of difference.

“We produce a lot of good academy players because they get exposed to top line rugby earlier.

“Guys like Gerard Ellis, Kieran Lowe and Jon Fisher, there’s definitely four or five guys who have earned a lot of respect in the group.

“Marland broke through last season and put himself on the map well and truly. Some of those guys are going to have a breakthrough season.”

Irish lost their opening three games of last season and Smith is determined to build momentum early this time around.

And despite the difficult test of facing Saracens in their first fixture Smith admits there is no better arena than Twickenham for his players to start the season.

“A fast start is very important,” he added. “Everyone wants to win the first game and like all the teams we are looking to make a mark in those first five games.

“If you do that you’ve set yourself up to make a mark on the league. What we really want to be is in the hunt at Christmas and if we can do that anything can happen.

“Twickenham is always a great place to play and 80,000 people in at a London Double Header is a great experience.”

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