The 37-year-old Stringer has just about settled into another year of Aviva Premiership activity, this time with Sale Sharks, and he will undoubtedly come up against Court during the season.
“I’d kill to be in his shape,” admitted the former Ulster prop of Stringer. “He’s been doing brilliantly in England these last few seasons, gets better with age, although I suppose he wouldn’t quite work out in the front row!”
Court is now in his second season of three with London Irish, happy to have settled in England and determined to make his mark at a club that had a forgettable enough season.
Having spent some of his career switching between the two sides of the scrum, Court has now firmly settled on the loose head role.
“It was a string to my bow being able to play both sides, I felt comfortable there, but when BJ Botha came over to Ulster, Matt Williams had a word and said in order to get game time, I would have to change sides; unfortunately for me, BJ is a fairly decent tight head!” Court has accumulated a decent haul of 32 caps, the last of which came in 2013.
After all that, he was happy to make the move to London from Belfast.
“I had been with Ulster for eight-and-a-half seasons, I guess I needed something different, something fresh, a new challenge; I didn’t want to be one of those guys who faded into the background, I wanted to stay at the top of my game for as long as possible. I saw it as a great opportunity, having talked with Bob Casey [London Irish CEO]. Getting a three-year contract allowed me to plan my life better over a longer period of time. It felt like the right time for me and my family [wife and two young children]. It was fairly hectic during my time with Ulster and Ireland, being away for long spells. Over here, I have been able to make a fresh start and it allows me put the family first.
“ The vision here is similar to Ulster was, building up to get us into Heineken Cup finals and Pro12 finals. Here, in London Irish, it felt like that Bob was trying a similar thing.”
So what is his goal now? “Look, we’re playing in the Premiership and obviously that’s the competition you want to aim at to win, but, being realistic, I suppose it has to be first things first. Realistically, we’ve got to improve on last year when our form was pretty inconsistent. We showed glimpses of what we needed to do to beat the top teams last year, but then showed a lot of poor game time as well, so the goal this year is primarily to work our way up the table and to solidify our position.”