26 October 2016
Established in 1898, London Irish became a professional rugby club in 1996. There have been many developments over the years, including a move out to Madejski Stadium where London Irish now play all their home matches, and a move from the former spirital home at The Avenue to the elite Hazelwood training facility which they now call home.
Sunbury-on-Thames was the home of London Irish between 1931 and 2014 when the Club bought 11 acres of land off the then Avenue Road for the then 'huge' sum of £1,280.
"A welcoming and hospitable venue to entertain rugby players and supporters from all over the world. Excluding the period 1940-1959 when the first XV played in Blackheath, the Sunbury grounds have been the home of the Exiles since then."
The intention was to provide a home from home for wandering Irish men and women regardless of creed or politics and a welcoming and hospitable venue to entertain rugby players and supporters from all over the world. Excluding the period 1940-1959 when the first XV played at Blackheath, the Sunbury grounds was the home of the Exiles during that period.
Over the decades the property was developed to provide playing, training, administration and hospitality facilities that befit the Club's status among the leading clubs not just in England but also in Europe.
Today Hazelwood provides not only the administration and training headquarters for the professional squad, it is also the base for the London Irish England Rugby Academy and the Amateur Club.
The facilities include five full size pitches, including one artificial surface and a state of the art gym. The main pitch is used for training by the professional squad and for games by the development team and the 'Wild Geese', the top team in the Amateur Club.
On Sunday mornings during the season, Hazelwood resounds to the noise of up to 400 mini-rugby players and coaches that take over the grounds for training and matches.