31 December 2021
Fixture: London Irish v Bath Rugby
Competition: Gallagher Premiership, Round 12
Date: Monday 3rd January 2022
Stadium: Brentford Community Stadium
Gallagher Premiership rugby returns to West London in Round 12 as London Irish host Bath at the Brentford Community Stadium on Bank Holiday Monday.
Declan Kidney’s side will be aiming to ring in 2022 with a positive retort against a struggling Bath side, following a first loss in seven games when Wasps emerged 38-30 victors in Round 11 on Boxing Day.
In the first Premiership game at the BCS in a month, the Exiles welcome Stuart Hooper’s team, whose winless start to the 2021/22 campaign continued against West Country rivals Gloucester in a 40-20 defeat last weekend.
The Somerset outfit are now bolstered by the acquisition of new defence coach Brent Janse van Rensburg, looking to correct a porous pack that conceded seven of their 13 penalties at the breakdown against Gloucester.
Former Sale Sharks prop Valery Morozov also put pen to paper to join from CSKA Moscow this week, arriving at Farleigh House as cover for the sidelined Beno Obano.
Replenished after the cancellation of their rescheduled midweek Premiership Rugby Cup fixture against Exeter Chiefs, Bath will hope to replicate the thrilling nature of last season’s encounters against Saturday’s hosts.
A win each on the domestic and continental front saw Hooper’s side progress to the Challenge Cup semi-finals, but Irish secured all five points in the Premiership in a narrow 36-33 final score.
The boss – Stuart Hooper
Former bearer of the captain’s armband at Bath, Stuart Hooper is in his third campaign as the club’s Director of Rugby following a decade of roles both on and off the pitch at the Recreation Ground.
A 17-year rugby career, which included National League One promotion honours with Leeds Tykes and a Challenge Cup trophy in 2008 with Bath, came to an end in 2016 after a back injury.
Hooper led the club’s Performance and Player Development department in the three years following his retirement, before succeeding Todd Blackadder in his current position as Director of Rugby.
An impressive beginning to life in the dug-out saw him lead his beloved Bath to their first play-off appearance in five years in 2020, along with a seventh-placed finish last term that put them above Irish in ninth.
One to Watch – Tom de Glanville
One of many fresh from the Bath Rugby pathway, Tom de Glanville has become a presence in the backline at the Rec over the previous two seasons and now into the 2021/22 campaign.
The 22 year-old finds himself in the top five players in the division in metres gained (863), defenders beaten (30) and offloads (12) so far this season.
Fast becoming one of the country’s premium running threats, the full-back is averaging 10 metres per carry on top of his two tries for his hometown side in 2021/22.
Alongside his England U20s honours, his talents have been recognised in the international set-up with a call-up to last summer’s training camp with a view of a first full cap in 2022.
Classic Encounter – Bath Rugby 17, London Irish 21 – November 4th 2006 – Guinness Premiership
London Irish pulled off a satisfying comeback over Steve Meehan’s Bath Rugby at the Recreation Ground back in 2006, with two late tries courtesy of Robbie Russell and Juan Manuel Leguizamon sealing victory on the road.
Irish had trailed by 11 in the second half, with Barry Everitt’s contribution of a penalty and conversion in the second period eating into the deficit for an Exiles team previously winless in five.
The Blue, Black & White touched down first via former Irish player Zak Feaunati on the cusp of the break, giving his team an eight-point cushion with exchanges at goal from both Everitt and Chris Malone either side of the opener.
Irish’s line-out nous proved pivotal in the reversal of fortunes as Russell bundled over from a rolling maul with ten minutes left on the clock, leaving them just a single point behind on the scoreboard.
Kieran Roche’s mid-air steal deep into Bath territory set in motion the decisive try – Leguizamon being the eventual recipient after three phases to leap over the whitewash and ensure a sweet four points were brought back to Berkshire.
Tries: Zak Feaunati
Penalties: Chris Malone (4)
Tries: Robbie Russell, Juan Manuel Leguizamon
Conversions: Barry Everitt
Penalties: Barry Everitt (3)
Stuart Hooper believes his side could not ‘front up enough’ to the challenge of local rivals Gloucester Rugby on Boxing Day, with former Exile George Skivington’s Cherry & Whites walking away with a bonus point victory from the Recreation Ground.
"We didn't stop the line-out drive and if you don't do that particularly against these guys who are the best at it, you're in trouble,” Hooper declared.
"There are technical aspects to it about where you split people.”
Two yellow cards distributed to Bath’s Tom Ellis and Lewis Boyce handed the advantage to the visitors, who made use of their mighty mauls on the occasion to score thrice following a set piece.
"Whenever you have a moment of confrontation like that, you have to win it, and we didn't win it.
“We have to learn from that and be considerably better as a pack.”
(Preview compiled by Ryan Fitzgerald-Nolan)