Head Coach Les Kiss has said that his Exiles will have to earn a win over Saracens this Sunday, also stating that London Irish are looking for no favours from other sides in the final two rounds of the Gallagher Premiership.
The west Londoners travel north of the capital to the StoneX Stadium for a third instalment of their rivalry with Saracens this season, and despite Irish winning both previous encounters, history will account for little this weekend.
Kiss instead believes that sticking to the principles of hard work and focus will serve his squad well in “living up to the expectations” of how Irish play when facing Mark McCall’s men.
With it being four weeks since Kiss has led his team into a competitive encounter, the coach thanked the supporters for their patience and hopes to reward their continued faith in the Club over the coming weekends.
“We have a wonderful supporter base and the people that have followed us around the country this season have been fantastic,” he praised.
“The patience that they’ve had to have over the last few weeks must be amazing!
“We’ve been pleased that we’re doing some things that they’re proud of, and from our perspective, we have been planning over these weeks to make sure that we put in the type of performance that we know makes our game work well.
“If we can do that, then I know they’ll have reason to be happy come full-time.
“We’re delighted with the way they support us; we say every week to make sure we do the jersey and the supporters proud.
“We now enter a matchweek, which is exciting, but also another emotional, mental beast that comes to the fore for our group that we will have to tackle.”
The Exiles are in the midst of a sixth London derby gameweek of the season, and having avoided defeat in all but one previous encounter with their capital adversaries, there will be cause for optimism amongst the Exile Nation.
The Head Coach instead took the opportunity to hone in on the requirement for Irish to knuckle down against the Premiership pace-setters, as they bid to pick up a first away league victory over Sarries since 2014.
“Without a doubt, we love the derbies and they’re brilliant occasions, really special, and the fact that we did well just before Christmas against Saracens is testament to the boys rising to that challenge.
“But this is Saracens as well, there’s a lot to get ready for and we accept, as always, that we are going to have to be at our best to get this job done.
“Sometimes you can look at the historical results and enjoy them, but what will that give us now?
“I’m not so sure, the past won’t determine the future but what I do know is that we love the challenge of taking them on.
“They have had some disappointments recently and they’ll be driven to perform – we’re under no illusions here, it’s going to be a massive fixture at the StoneX.
“It’s what we do now in the build-up and into the 80 minutes that we know we have to control and manage, so the big messaging for us is to stay focused on the here and now.”
Looking ahead to the Saracens clash, the arrival of Exeter Chiefs on 6th May and the wider context that comes with the games, the messaging from Kiss remains the same – focus on the next task at hand.
“We’re still in the hunt, we aren’t going to stop people talking about anything beyond the regular season but until it’s reality, we have to stay grounded and we have to stay focused.
“In all aspects of our programme, there is a lot of excitement and hope around it, we should be confident and optimistic but it can’t hijack us and take our eye off the ball.
“The reality is that from the time the final whistle blew against Northampton, there was one equation that will get us there – that’s to win two games.
“We can’t focus on something mythical yet, we have to focus on winning the next game and the next game after that.”
The five-time Premiership victors have already secured a home semi-final berth in pursuit of a sixth league honour this season, and as such, have rotated accordingly following on from a European exit at the hands of La Rochelle.
A 38-29 reverse at the cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens to Northampton Saints last weekend, a third defeat in their last five league games, sees them now return to home comforts where they have won their last 14 league encounters.
Kiss and co. are relishing the challenge that awaits for Irish, putting the responsibility of their fate firmly in their own grasp.
He concluded: “I believe they will be hurting, we would be if that happened to us, so we expect nothing other than their best team that they can put out and them wanting to right some wrongs over the last couple of weeks.
“That makes it tougher, but I know from our perspective that we prefer it that way and we’ll have to earn a win.
“They play a style of game that is really challenging and it demands that you stay focused and work hard, but those qualities are very important to us and make our game work well too.
“We know what they’ll bring, but more importantly, we know what we can bring if we stick to those principles of focus and hard work.
“We’re doing the necessary work and analysis on them, but more importantly, we have to live up to the expectations of what it takes to play our game.
“We’re not asking for favours from anywhere else in this competition, we just have to stay focused, do what we know we can do well and front up, because they will be good on Sunday.
“We need to equal that and do better.”