Versatile back James Stokes is thoroughly enjoying being back around the London Irish squad at Hazelwood after the break in between seasons.

After a heavily impacted 2019/20 season, Stokes has relished the start of preparations for the new season.

“It’s great to be back with the boys after our time off. It’s good to get back out on the field and get the fitness back to the right levels” he said.

“Obviously with the impact of Covid, it hampered the amount of time we could spend together. For this pre-season, with restrictions easing a bit, we’ve been able to have a bit of bonding time, which is important.”

Stokes went on to explain the differences of what a ‘usual pre-season’ has looked like for him in the past, compared to this one.

“The usual pre-season structure used to be tough sessions on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. This year, we’ve been in on Monday to Friday.

“We’ve been managed very well and have been mixing our fitness sessions with skill drills. I’ve really enjoyed coming in everyday, seeing the boys and getting work done.”

Heading into a break in the training schedule, Stokes believes that the squad have put themselves in a positive position with just over a month until the Gallagher Premiership season gets underway.

“The squad is in a good place. There are a couple of boys to come back from injury, but everyone is clued up on their roles and responsibilities. There have been some good bronco scores and strength numbers in the gym.”

The Exiles squad has welcomed some new faces into the setup, and Stokes has been impressed with the impact that they have made.

“The new boys have settled in well. We have had some little welcome events for them and got to know a little bit more about them.

“They’ve done well so far and fitted in seamlessly; the standard of training has gone up with their arrival. They’ve been fantastic and I look forward to getting to know them a bit more as the season goes on.”

In terms of pre-season stand-out performers; Stokes wasn’t going to start naming names! But he did praise both ends of the experience scale.

“The veterans of the Club know their way around a pre-season. For some of them, it’s their 10th, 11th or 12thpre-season, so they are used to the daily grind that a pre-season can present.

“I think that the Academy lads that are stepping up have done very well as well. They are all chomping at the bit to learn as much as they can. They’ve managed to integrate themselves well.”

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