16 February 2016
Academy coach Paul Hodgson insists his side’s success was a ‘collective’ effort following Monday’s 35-11 triumph over Gloucester Rugby at Allianz Park.
Exiles stalwart Hodgson, 33, who spent eight seasons as a player at Irish, utilised the full range of his squad during a campaign which bore fruit from start to finish.
“It was a collective effort,” said Hodgson, who could not hide his delight as skipper Matt Kouris lifted the trophy.
“It was really important for us as a squad – including the players who didn’t feature in the final. Those guys contributed not just in the other games, but also in training.
“We pick from a squad of 37/38 and every single one of those boys has contributed. It’s our gold group at the academy and they have been an absolute pleasure to coach this year,” added Hodgson.
The Irish fledglings put Gloucester to the sword with a clinical display, befitting of a side that won six out of six games in the Southern Conference on their way to the showpiece.
Showcasing their predatory instincts with ball in hand, coupled with a steely defensive resistance, Irish looked good value for their Premiership crown according to Hodgson.
He said: “I’m extremely happy to say the least – I just thought the performance there in the final was as pleasing as the result. We made a promise to ourselves that we would continue doing what we have done in the previous six games, which is expressing ourselves.
“We try and make the environment of the boys’ practice in training as enjoyable as possible and hopefully you saw that out on the pitch. Seeing them going out onto the pitch and enjoying their rugby, which is fundamental for us.
“We play a lot of game-sense, small-sided conditioning games and I think that came across. We play at such a quick tempo and can move the ball from the breakdown quickly, so the defence can’t react quick enough – it served us well.”
Paying tribute to the hierarchy for their time and investment into the Academy, Hodgson said: “Testament to Mick Crossan and the other owners of the club, alongside Bob Casey right at the top. We’ve got them to thank because they have really started to invest again in that academy structure.
“When myself, Nick Kennedy and Declan Danaher came back to the club 18 months ago, this was the type of day we wanted to be part of.
“Our first team coaches really believe in the youth and we have had some of these players training alongside the first team, just to try and develop a clear transition. At other club’s you may not see that, but at London Irish there is a clear pathway.”