Fixture: London Irish v Club Athlétique Brive Corrèze Limousin
Competition: EPCR Challenge Cup, Pool C
Date: Sunday 19th December 2021
Stadium: Brentford Community Stadium
London Irish host CA Brive at the Brentford Community Stadium this Sunday, in their opening home match of the EPCR Challenge Cup.
Sunday’s match-up will be Brive’s first time taking to the field in this competition this season, after playing out a bye in Round 1 of the pool stages last weekend.
The Exiles, meanwhile, started out with a successful visit to the south of France, taking all five points away from the Stade du Hameau in a 33-17 win over Section Paloise.
Jeremy Davidson’s team, who currently sit 12th in the Top 14 standings, are in their third consecutive campaign in France’s first division, after the Irishman guided the Club back from the second tier in 2019.
The Corrèze Club initially made an impressive start to the season by winning three out of their five opening league games, but a recent downturn in form has only seen them muster one victory in their last seven.
New signings Tevita Ratuva and Daniel Brennan bolster a squad hoping to better their pool stage exit of last term, with the team retaining a strong record of three Challenge Cup semi-final appearances in their history, not to mention their 1997 Heineken Cup triumph.
The boss – Jeremy Davidson
Two-time British & Irish Lions tourist Jeremy Davidson returns to face one of his former teams in Round 2 of the Challenge Cup – the 47-year-old played for the Exiles in the days of Clive Woodward and Dick Best in the early professional era.
Whilst also plying his trade for Castres and Ulster on and off the pitch, Davidson’s playing career was cut short prematurely at the age of 27 due to a knee injury, but he moved into a role with Dungannon RFC that instituted the Irishman’s career as a coach.
After serving Castres and Ulster’s coaching team, Davidson’s first post over the Channel was with Aurillac, a team who just missed out on promotion with to Bayonne in the 2015/16 season.
He was still able to steer current team Brive to promotion from the Pro D2 in his maiden 2018/19 campaign, the Brivist’s second in the space of a decade.
One to Watch – Matthieu Voisin
An upshot of the Racing 92 production line, Matthieu Voisin made his debut for the Paris Club against his current employers back in 2016.
The back-row forward joined Brive in 2018 after a largely barren time on the pitch in the capital, particularly due to a cruciate ligament rupture in pre-season that saw him miss 13 months of action.
He teamed up with the Black & Whites in their successful promotion bid campaign three seasons ago and has made 76 appearances since then, the most of those in the current squad since his arrival.
Voisin is in the top five players in the Top 14 in tackles made this season, completing 104 tackles in 12 league appearances.
Classic Encounter – London Irish 34, Brive 13 – December 19th 2009 – Heineken Cup
Delon Armitage’s score at the death sealed maximum points for London Irish during Brive’s last visit to take on the Exiles back in 2009/10 Heineken Cup, finishing 34-13.
A cagey opening saw Tom Homer’s neat footwork enable the deadlock to be broken, before the lead was narrowed to just a point, thanks to Luciano Orquera’s two goal kicks.
Irish’s Samoan midfield combination of Seilala Mapusua and Elvis Seveali'i both crossed either side of the interval, and – combined with two penalties and conversion from Chris Malone – the home side had a comfortable advantage.
Delon Armitage capped off a triumphant return from shoulder injury by quashing Guillaume Namy’s consolation and assuring his side’s bonus point in the last play of the game, projecting Irish to the top of Pool Six.
Tries: Tom Homer, Seilala Mapusua, Elvis Seveali'i, Delon Armitage
Conversions: Chris Malone (3), Ryan Lamb
Penalties: Chris Malone (2)
Try: Guillaume Namy
Conversion: Luciano Orquera
Penalties: Luciano Orquera (2)
Despite a difficult run of games for Brive, Director of Rugby Jeremy Davidson believes there is cause for optimism with his side’s upcoming schedule.
"We knew there were away games in this block, but in January and February, we have five home games with the Clermont match in December,” Davidson stated.
"It will put us back on the basis of work so that we can reverse the trend afterwards.
"It's a calendar that leaves little time with Christmas and New Year, so we will organise ourselves, like the other clubs, to have the best availability of players in training."
(Preview compiled by Ryan Fitzgerald-Nolan)