London Irish keen to become home for exiles

London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith has pledged to continue recruiting in Ireland and wants to develop a partnership with the IRFU to provide a platform for Irish players in England.

The Premiership club is committed to returning to its roots as an outpost for Exiles from these shores since a consortium of Irish businessmen led by Mick Crossan completed a 52% buy-out late last year.

With places on the four provincial squads in Ireland at a premium, Smith wants London Irish to be the first port of call for young players looking for game time.

Connacht’s Eoin Griffin, Leinster’s Conor Gilsenan as well as veteran Ireland prop Tom Court all joined during the summer to augment an Irish contingent already numbering Eamonn Sheridan and Tomás O’Leary.

Asked if that trend would continue Smith said: “Yes, I think so. The new owners have really added to this, clearly we are very keen to maintain the links. We would like to think that any of the lads who are feeling that they might be being overlooked at home, that they can always consider London Irish if they are going to play in the Premiership.”

Smith cited the example of scrum-half O’Leary, who found himself squeezed out of the Munster team by the emergence of Conor Murray but has since resurrected his career in England.

“We play in the Premiership but we are London Irish so we would like to think that we can provide a platform for Irish players,” Smith said. “Guys like Tomás, he might not get as much game time as he would like at home, so I think for guys like him who are very experienced at the back end of his careers, and then for young guys like Eamonn Sheridan and Conor Gilsenan and Eoin Griffin, we can give them a different experience.

“We are mindful that we have responsibilities to produce our own homegrown English players but wherever we can, if we can, provide a platform for all of young Irish talent.”

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