London Irish fly-half Rory Jennings has outlined that the team are actively working towards an offensive start to the 2022/23 campaign during work at Hazelwood this pre-season.
The 2021 signing from ASM Clermont Auvergne entered his second offseason with the Club off the back of a disrupted opening term with the Exiles, but his contributions nonetheless were still felt in a momentous nine months.
Jennings slotted the levelling conversion in Irish’s 27-point comeback against Saracens, taking three points away from the StoneX Stadium and contributing to Irish’s advancement to the Heineken Champions Cup.
The 26-year-old also notched 11 decisive points in the Premiership Rugby Cup second round fixture against Northampton Saints as his side went on to progress to their first cup final as a Premiership side in 20 years.
His season came to an untimely conclusion in the new year after injuring his shoulder in an EPCR Challenge Cup away tie against Saracens, but the marksman is optimistic having fully recuperated.
“It was very disappointing to get injured around January time, but recovery has been pretty good and pretty smooth, as that type of injury goes,” Jennings stated.
“I kept dislocating my shoulder so I had to have a Latarjet surgery, which changes the structure of the shoulder to make it more secure and more difficult to dislocate.
“It can be quite niggly and hang around for a while, but so far, so good.
“It’s recovered pretty well and I’m back into full training now which is great.”
The team have arrived back at their Hazelwood headquarters, with pre-season training at present seeing them come to the end of the first block of their schedule, as Jennings explains.
“This is our third week of pre-season now, and we’ve been in five days a week since returning.
“The schedule includes three heavy rugby sessions and two days which are perhaps more lighter, with more work concentrating on off-feet activities.
“This week is the last of our first block, with a week off next week in preparation for another block before our first games.
“This first block is all about the stuff we’re striving to improve on next year, look back at stuff we’ve done well and also not so well from last year.
“We have come in with some great improvements over the past few weeks and we’re working on putting a plan in place to really attack the upcoming season.”
Despite the disrupted season, Jennings declared that he has adapted to life at Irish well away from the field in fairly familiar surroundings.
Having previously lined up for Ealing Trailfinders and London Scottish, the out-half is aware of his current corner of London and reflects fondly since making the move back to the west of the capital.
“It’s been seamless to be honest, I knew a few of the boys before but it’s been an easy transition.
“I know the area well having worked with other local Clubs and I have mates outside of rugby that work and live in and around London, so it was great to come back.
“As the Club goes as well, everyone has been incredibly welcoming, and it was a great year last year despite the injury.
“I felt as though I was making great strides before that, there was some decent games in there for myself and the team and it was great to get some good minutes at 10 and contribute in some way.”
Operating within the Exiles side that maintained the highest ruck speed (3.24 seconds) and a Club-best tries return in the Premiership era (93) is an appealing prospect for Jennings and his teammates.
The fervent attacking environment created works in tandem with the personnel employed in the squad, allowing players like Jennings to exhibit his talents on the field.
“There’s a lot of freedom within the system we play, and you’re allowed to express yourself in an attacking way.
“We pride ourselves in being good defensively and being smart rugby players, but we definitely have that intention to attack.
“Looking at our squad, it’s full of young, dangerous offensive players throughout.
“Being a cog in that machine is incredibly exciting, particularly in my position where I have heaps of players surrounding me who can do crazy things.”
Working alongside Paddy Jackson, the second-highest top-scorer in the Gallagher Premiership last term, has also been of benefit to his fellow 10.
“He’s absolutely fantastic, the way he goes about things is top-class and he is one of the best stand-offs in the Premiership.
“Paddy was on great form last year and I was learning a lot off him, and at the moment he’s still proving to be a great trainer.
“He’s a great friend of mine too so it’s a privilege being in the same squad.”
After achieving a first Champions Cup berth in 11 seasons last year, Jennings pronounced that the outlook within the team is to only raise the bar further.
“We achieved eighth place and got Champions Cup rugby for the first time in over a decade, but we want to make more strides in the Premiership.
“We want to start well, climb our way up the table and be a little bit more consistent.
“There were periods in the last year where we were quite sloppy and others where we would win five or six on the bounce; it’s just marrying that consistency together and hopefully we’ll see us climb up the table from there.
“A lot of those Premiership teams we have seen in years gone by and it was exciting to see who we’ve got up first in the opening rounds last week.”
Confirmation of fixtures for all three competitions in the previous seven days has laid out the Exile’s route for the 2022/23 season, and a determined slant from Jennings deduces that London Irish is set to compete on all fronts once more.
“We can’t wait to climb into the Premiership, and also the two great away trips in Europe as well.
“They’ll be two big tests but we’re buzzing for them, we’re working really, really hard at the moment so hopefully when it gets to those days, we’ll be ready for it.
“I don’t see why we can’t put in some massive performances against those teams.
“If we carry on working hard and rip into those games, there’s no reason why we can’t put up a shock to the rest of the competition as it is our first time in a while.”
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