London Irish host Exeter Chiefs this Sunday in Round 8 of the Gallagher Premiership at Madejski Stadium after two disappointing results over the festive period.

“It was a tough Christmas period for sure” said London Irish head coach, Les Kiss.

“We are of the view that you are always going to get those periods in your year. We have had a couple of tough weeks, it’s probably a reflection of where we are, we are growing, we always thought this year would be a real year to grow ourselves and see where we can get to, and this is a tough period at the moment.”

The squad remain determined, despite the recent setbacks, which is another big plus for Kiss.

“I have got to say that the spirit of the boys is great still, they are fighting for everything. We have put ourselves under pressure a couple of times with some discipline, but there is still good fight in the group, and they know that there is better in them.”

Sekope Kepu joined the club this week as the final addition to the squad for the 2019/20 season. This season has seen the majority of the squad from the Championship campaign making up the matchday squad, with new additions working their way onto it.

“It’s important to understand where we came from. The team that brought us up from last season have represented the baulk of the team right through pre-season and into the Premiership rounds.

“They have put us in this position over the last eight weeks and we have had a number of new players come in, so we have had to try and blend them into the systems and garner what we can out of them that can build our game.

“Overall, it has been a learning and growing period, now that Sekope is on board, and we will see him in the fray shortly, we will be able to find out what we are about and learn more from each other. From here to the end of the season should be some interesting growing periods and is very exciting for us.”

This weekend presents another formidable challenge. The league leaders Exeter Chiefs come to the Madejski after defeating Saracens at Sandy Park last weekend.

“I think Saracens and Exeter are the two best teams. Exeter are fighting well on both fronts now, and they are really putting a good stamp on Europe as well, so they are team that is in form.

“They are comfortable with their style of play and they’re a team that continuously applies pressure to you. Their forward pack is very good, it gives the backs an easier ride, but in saying that, they have got some handy backs. I think Stuart Hogg has been a very good addition for them at the back and Jack Nowell seems to be back in good form.

“So, we would expect what they do all the time. They’ll pressure you and dominate field position and when they get in your 22, they are dangerous to hold out. Our challenge is to make sure we can handle that, but it is important not to get too buried in what the opposition do. You have to understand what they do and what makes them tick, but we need to keep driving on the principle play that we are on about and how we would like to play the game, to keep a good attacking mindset and make sure we are not afraid to play and go at the opposition and back our skillsets.

“Part of that is learning who we are together. We are finally putting the last pieces of that together. We are trying to grow our game at the same time as winning as many as possible and that’s a total difference to where Exeter are. They know each other inside out and know completely how they want to play, and they have had seven or eight years to build that.

“We are at the other end of the spectrum, but we have got good fight, we have good people and we are up for the battle.”

To buy tickets for London Irish v Exeter at Madejski Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 2.30pm), please click here.

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