London Irish will maintain Irish links, says Bob Casey

London Irish intends making more of its roots in tandem with the responsibility of a Premiership club to generate young English talent.

Highlighting the importance of the club’s position as “exiles”, new chief executive, former Irish international Bob Casey, believes there is no reason why under-exposed Irish players can’t be crucial to its success in the coming years and he is also keen to help strengthen the development of young second generation talent.

Casey was back in Ireland last weekend watching his club take on Munster and he stressed how important it was to allow Irish players line out side by side with rising English talent.

“The situation is that we are an English club in the English Premiership, one of 12 and one of only seven who have been in the Premiership since its inception; our academy is part-funded by the RFU (to help produce players for the English system), that is not going to change but it is not to say you cannot look at other options (to develop the club).

“There is funding coming from the Rugby Union and the Premiership and we are playing there, but we are interested in building the relationship with the IRFU and we have had Joe Schmidt and David Nucifora over to visit us, there is a lot of talented rugby players in Ireland and not all of them are getting contracts.

“Take Conor Gilsenan (for instance) who had seven back row forwards ahead of him in Leinster. He has come over, played very well and we rewarded him with a two-year deal, he is developing nicely and we would like more of those type of players.” In accepting the agreement to work with the English rugby authorities, Casey also pointed out that the club continues to help with the development of second generation Irish and highlighted the role the club played in the general Irish community in London and beyond.

“We have and we want a core of Irish players. The ethos of the club is Irish, our head of medical is from Kanturk, we have Kieran McCarthy (long serving) who is Cork through and through, there’s myself and the owners, the board, a lot of our supporters and other staff. Then you have those second generation members, these people nearly know more about the country than we do. We took it (our roots) for granted but these guys of Irish parents who go to Ireland on summer holidays really take it seriously. Yes, the accents can sound strange in a sense but they are really very passionate about the country.

“When you think of the millions of exiles that are around in the UK of Irish qualified parents, you would like to think that London Irish could be a focal point (to develop Irish qualified players). We will still do what we are doing producing English players for the system, we’re still fulfilling all our criteria, but there is no reason why we cannot add another arm where we take in two or three exiles from time to time.”

Meanwhile, as Munster continue their build up to Saturday’s Guinness Pro12 opener against Treviso, head coach Anthony Foley hopes the physicality of the game with London Irish will prove to be beneficial, not to mention the fact they recorded a much-needed win.

Foley has been experimenting these last three games and he reflected happily on the performance of newcomer Francis Saili, unfortunately ruled out of this weekend’s game with concussion.

However, he had other good aspects to reflect upon, not least the robust challenge they got from the London Irish pack.

“Forwards need physical confrontation and they got that against a very big side, obviously it was their big hit out and they don’t play for some time again, but for us it was so important to get that physicality and make sure we’re right for what we have to face against Treviso.”

Selection will be left until later in the week.

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