London Irish Director of Rugby Declan Kidney is anticipating the “massive buzz” at the Gtech Community Stadium as his side put in the final preparations for the arrival of Northampton Saints this Saturday.
The Club is celebrating its annual St. Patrick’s Party fixture in Round 21 of the Gallagher Premiership, looking to pick up from where they left off in league action following on from successive Premiership Rugby Cup final losses.
Irish have won five of their last six Premiership meetings, but they now face Phil Dowson’s outfit, who have held out the Exiles in league competition since January 2020.
Seeking to banish the ghosts of last year’s St. Patrick’s Party loss against Saints, Kidney has explained how his team have regrouped and refreshed ahead of Saints’ visit the in wake of last weekend’s final loss.
“It was a good game, it was disappointing but none more so than for the players who got us there,” the Irishman stated.
“The players who didn’t play joined them on the pitch after to be with their teammates, it’s been a whole squad effort of 48 players in the cup.
“We can’t look back into the past too much because Northampton will go by us, and they have showed they are a more than capable side in our last few meetings.
“The team will have built up a lot of experiences then too from last weekend, but part of that is turning up for work in the days after and the players and coaches did that perfectly.
“We talked about how that professionalism was necessary after the final; win, lose or draw, ahead of the biggest fixture in the Club’s calendar – the St. Patrick’s Party.”
The west Londoners have had a lot to shout about this year nevertheless in matters concerning the Gallagher Premiership, with a burgeoning squad chemistry and in-match focus elevating Irish into postseason contention.
It contrasts to earlier form in the opening months of the 2022/23 campaign, with Kidney believing there has been evident growth in his personnel bridging from one year to another.
“It’s about building up gametime together so that they can understand one another, and when they get to the pivotal points in the match, they know that they can get positive outcomes from their decision making.
“Just staying with and concentrating on the moments has been crucial, and then experience within the squad always plays a part.
“I’d like to think we have grown as a side, and hurt is part of that recently too, but we have shown that we aren’t too far off throughout and we aren’t too far ahead either.
“We have a good balance throughout our game.
“Sides are now coming through at the business end of the season and we need to learn how to cope with the pressures that are going to come this weekend.
“The Premiership is living up to its reputation, so we will have to fight for every moment and work on what comes next in the game.”
London Irish will be looking to consolidate the home form that has played a strong hand in taking the team to fifth in the league standings, but they encounter the East Midlands side who are in solid form themselves.
Barring the heavy away loss to Bristol Bears, Saints have won four of their last five Premiership games and are one of only two sides to deny Irish points in a league game this season.
With Irish having lost just twice at the Gtech in the 2022/23 Premiership, Kidney forecasts another hotly-contested match-up between two celebrated attacking teams.
He commented: “Saints have gotten the better of us recently in the league and that’s why we have had to concentrate so much this week.
“We know it will be a massive task to try and overturn a very good side that will have a lot of English players coming in hungry to play.
“They play a good game, it has the makings of a brilliant match because it’s two sides who like to have the ball; this season we have still maintained focus on our speed on the training pitch but also in our analysis and more innovative ways in getting our message across.
“Good ruck speed puts a lot of pressure on different parts, and their scrum-halves are good at getting the ball away once it’s won in order to not put more people into resource the ruck.
“The technique of the ball carrier and the support player and what they are trying to get out of the tackle is important too, an extra yard gained might mean slower ball.
“There’s no point in having quick ball if there’s no shape to put it to, it’s a micro-unit skill, just as the set-piece is.”
Aside from the 80 minutes of promising action in Brentford sees the party continue through the day and night, and partnered with the significance of league positioning, it will no doubt be a momentous day for the Club.
With it only being the second St. Patrick’s fixture for Irish with fans since the move back into the capital, Kidney is looking to reward the ever-faithful Exile Nation with an important result this weekend.
“When we have that big crowd, there is a massive buzz and we have to match that,” he deduced.
“It is a whole day experience normally, and could be a whole day and night experience with the late kick-off and it’ll be a great opportunity for our supporters to get together around a game.
“Certainly with the two sides this Saturday, the ball will be in play a lot.
“We’ve been knocking on the door throughout the season for points all the time, even in earlier parts of the season.
“We’ve picked up more points than not recently, it’s at the end of the season when that will all matter but we’re just delighted for our supporters.
“This weekend will be a big game for them, we’ve had a few St. Patrick’s Party fixtures that have had a lot less riding on it, that just ‘ups the ante’ and makes the occasion all the better!”