17 February 2023
London Irish Director of Rugby Declan Kidney has imparted a “fresh” mindset on his side as the Exiles return to Gallagher Premiership action this Saturday away to Bath Rugby.
The Boys in Green have lost just once since the turn of the year in all competitions, with significant victories over Northampton Saints in the Premiership Rugby Cup and a derby day win against Harlequins.
What matters most to Kidney and the coaching team this week is having the correct attitude to approach a “hungry” Bath side at the Recreation Ground in order to progress up the league division.
The boss honoured the achievement of the squad and coaching staff to reach successive cup finals whilst the Premiership played out fallow weeks.
“The squad as a whole has done really well to get this far, there were midweek matches earlier on in the season and there was a big call on younger players to come in and play well,” he explained.
“We were down a good few points against Northampton and it was an excellent comeback, the standard has remained high throughout in terms of the opposition we faced and how me matched that.
“We’ve tried to treat every match in its own right because each match had its own squad, and that is a testimony to the efforts of the coaching team and the playing squad there too.
“The work of last year was coming into fruition too, and where that takes us, we don’t know, but we’re getting better to deal with the moment.”
In the eyes of the Director of Rugby and his team, a short respite in the Premiership campaign has afforded the squad to fortify their mental strength ahead of this weekend.
“For most sides there has been a number of weeks from their last league match, it’ll regenerate some teams, make them fresher or maybe even rustier, it all depends on who comes out of the blocks.
“All the Clubs needed a rest, the win over Quins put us in a good frame of mind into the break but all that matters now is the attitude this week.
“It is like starting a fresh, what the form is in the past might not be significant in the next five weeks or so going forward.
“That’s going to tell a lot in terms of the league.”
Returning to a competition with such compact positioning in the overall standings is a thrilling prospect, particularly with Irish not having dropped a league place since Round 10.
The challenge at hand for Kidney and the team is steering focus solely to Bath, in order to maintain an upwards trajectory in the top tier this week.
He continued: “This year in the Premiership, you can go from the bottom four to the top four in a weekend.
“If you look too much at the table, you can lose focus of your objectives and delve into the permutations too much.
“It can change so frequently across the weekend, so what we do is concentrate on the moment and deal with what is in front of you.”
What lies in front for Irish is Johann van Graan’s side, who currently sit seven points and three places adrift of Kidney’s Exiles with a game in hand.
The threat of the West Country outfit was evident in the recent league meeting, who fell to a 47-38 loss to London Irish in a nonetheless spirited defeat, scoring five of their six tries in the second half of the game.
With Irish searching for a first win at the Rec since 2009 and a first league double over the Blue, Black and Whites since 2007, the Irishman is under no illusions of the test on the road this Saturday.
“There’s so much to play for, Bath had a slow start to the season due to a long injury list that allowed them to bring in a lot of top-quality players.
“They sit with one of the strongest squads in the league, we absolutely have no doubt about the size of the challenge in front of us.
“They have a few in the England squad, the same as ourselves, but they have great strength in depth with a few more players coming back from the sidelines.
“They were very unlucky in their last match against Sale, but this is like the start of a new season for them.
“We happen to be first up; everybody knows that the Rec is a good challenge but it’s a visit that we’re relishing.”
Kidney anticipates a physical battle and periods without the ball in the Round 17 encounter, as his men seek a fifth win in six league games.
“They’re very good at holding onto possession, they can hold onto the ball for long periods of time which will no doubt test our defence.
“We have to show discipline out of possession, they possess a strong set-piece and with field position, they can make teams pay too.
“Their league position belies where they truly are as well, they have regrouped, and I have been really impressed with them.
“I’m sure the break will have helped them in refining a couple of things, they’re a hungry side but so are we.”