London Irish

From Academic Kids

For the British Army regiment see London Irish Rifles

London Irish are a rugby union team in England.


Also known as The Exiles, London Irish RFC were formed in 1898 for the young Irishmen of London, it was modelled on the already established London Welsh and London Scottish teams.

London Irish suffered during the first world war and the Irish civil war. It was not until 1923 when the Irish Free State was established and peace returned that the club was able to welcome players from across the Irish Sea on a regular basis.

By the late 1920s the club boasted its first "home grown" Ireland international in S J 'Cags' Cagney who won 13 caps between 1925 and 1929.

The club developed a home of its own in 1931 at The Avenue in Sunbury, the first game was played on 5th December against London Welsh, the result was an honourable 8-8 draw. Although the club now play their games at the Madejski Stadium in Reading, the ground at Sunbury is still its spiritual home.

The 50s was a period of mixed fortunes for London Irish. There were good wins but many defeats, an inconsistency that belied the many talented players such as Mike Gibson, Tony O'Reilly and Ollie Waldron, who graced the Sunbury pitch. Famous opponents such as Coventry began to make regular appearances on the fixtures' list.

The improving quality of fixtures demanded a change in attitude to training and playing as the sixties became the seventies. Under the leadership of the great hooker Ken Kennedy, with the assistance of exceptional players like Mick Molloy and Barry Bresnihan, London Irish became a force to be reckoned with once more. In 1976-77 the Rugby Football Union introduced proper club merit tables and in that season London Irish finished first in the London Division with six wins out of seven.

The Irish made visits to France and famously to South Africa in 1977 where the club became the first touring side to play so many mixed race teams.

In playing terms the eighties were another period of inconsistency. The first team struggled to find reliable form as work pressures made more demands on players' time making them unavailable for regular training and matches. Happily, at the lower levels and socially London Irish continued to thrive.

In 1990-91 London Irish was promoted to the first division with a side containing four new Ireland internationals: Simon Geoghegan, Jim Staples, David Curtis and Rob Saunders, the youngest ever captain of his country at 22 years of age.

The harsh financial realities of playing at the top end of the game in England gradually became clear to all the country's senior clubs including London Irish in the early years of the decade. Operating losses mounted and but for the generosity of key benefactors at the time, the club would have struggled to survive.

The financial struggles were reflected on the pitch where London Irish failed to make any impact in the leagues despite employing the services of a number of high profile coaches.

In 1999 London Irish merged with London Scottish and Richmond to form a new umbrella company to support the professional team which competes in the Zurich Premiership in England. An amateur club was also formed at this time, London Irish Amateur RFC, which remains in Sunbury.

The club won its first piece of silverware in 2002 by beating Northampton Saints in the Powergen Cup final at Twickenham.

Club honours

External links

English Guinness Premiership rugby union clubs:

Bath | Bristol Shoguns | Gloucester | Leeds Tykes | Leicester Tigers | London Irish | Newcastle Falcons | Northampton Saints | Sale Sharks | Saracens | London Wasps | Worcester Warriors

RFU | National team

Guinness Premiership | Heineken Cup | European Challenge Cup | European Shield | Powergen Cup

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