London Irish super fans to represent club in new TV adverts

When Mike and Tristan Barnden set out on their 220-mile round trip from Maidstone to watch their beloved London Irish, they do it for the love of the club but that devotion has landed them an unexpected starring role in a series of adverts on the small screen.

The father and son impressed producers working for Premiership Rugby sponsors Aviva after they launched a search to find the country's biggest rugby fans. The pair wowed a camera crew after they were pulled out of the crowd during the 19-14 defeat to Northampton Saints at the Madjeski Stadium on 3 November. And they were stunned to get a call telling them they had been chosen to represent their club, with a camera crew heading down to Reading to film them in a car park near the ground.

"It's been fun – cold, freezing fun but we've enjoyed it,” said Tristan, 30, a radiologist at Maidstone Hospital. "Watching the rugby is good for us because it gives us something we can do together every other week. We come up here for a few drinks, and enjoy the craic with the London Irish fans.

"I think it is 220 miles which takes us about four hours on a good run – it's only for 80 minutes of rugby but it's worth it.”

Aviva producers sifted through hours and hours of footage of fans from every Aviva Premiership Rugby club before making their final selections, with the new adverts launching last weekend then appearing throughout the season. They will wrap around the Aviva Premiership Rugby highlights show on ITV and ITV4, with organisers hoping to highlight some of the real heroes of the grassroots game in this country.

The pair had their photos taken by a professional photographer before a spell under the brush of a makeup artist, after which they were quizzed on their love of London Irish in front of the TV cameras.

"Rugby is an all-inclusive game where people like us can be involved, and London Irish is a very family-orientated club which is just great for us,” said Mike, 61, a retired banker. "The atmosphere is brilliant and everyone from the staff to the players and the fans are a big part of it, we're all part of the same family.

"We know it's going to be a battle on the pitch from the first minute to the last but the boys don't stop trying and that's why we love it.”

"What we're trying to do is really get to the heart of what matters to rugby fans from the 12 Aviva Premiership Rugby clubs,” said Louisa Cheetham, Senior Sponsorship Manager at Aviva.

"I think what's been absolutely fantastic is we've seen the passion of all the fans, from an 82-year-old Leicester Tigers supporter to a pair of eight-year-olds who love Exeter Chiefs.

"And I think it's absolutely testament to how wonderfully supportive the fans are. They are ultimately at the heart of everything we're doing with rugby making it the great game that it is.”

To watch Mike and Tristan in action, click here. Please use the video on any of your digital platforms.

Aviva are proud sponsors of Aviva Premiership Rugby. For more information on Aviva's home insurance deals, go to aviva.co.uk/insurance

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