16 September 2021
Fixture: Worcester Warriors v London Irish
Competition: Gallagher Premiership, Round 1
Date: Saturday 18th September 2021
London Irish begin their Gallagher Premiership campaign this Saturday with a trip to Sixways to face Worcester Warriors.
The Exiles go into the Round 1 fixture fresh off the back of a 47-14 victory over Connacht Rugby in their final pre-season friendly, a week after the Warriors got the better of the Irish province in a 52-39 win.
Sixways will once again play host to successive season openers against Irish, after Declan Kidney’s men were defeated 11-10 last November, with Tom Howe’s try proving the difference on the day.
While Kidney will hope for a reversal of fortunes this time around in the Midlands, Irish overcame Alan Solomons’ side in the reverse fixture at the Brentford Community Stadium in March.
In another closely-fought contest, Paddy Jackson’s placed kick from within his own half secured a 20-17 win late on for the Exiles.
After finishing at the foot of the table last term, Worcester have added some notable recruits over the summer months in a bid to improve their final standing this time out.
The Warriors will boast their own British & Irish Lions contingent in 2021/22, with the arrivals of Edinburgh pair Duhan van der Merwe and Rory Sutherland. Both arrive from the Scottish capital, with the latter linking up with former Murrayfield boss Solomons, with the Warriors Director of Rugby full of praise for his new recruit, commenting: “Sutherland is a quality individual and a tremendous team man. He will add huge value and all of us are really looking forward to his arrival here at Sixways.”
The boss – Alan Solomons
Alan Solomons succeeded Gary Gold in his post as Director of Rugby after initially joining as a consultant in 2017, having spent time in Edinburgh as Head Coach and then in Bristol as a Coach.
The 71 year-old has played his part in cementing Worcester’s Premiership status ever since, along with appearances in the knockout phases of both the Premiership Cup (semi-final) and Challenge Cup (quarter-final) in the 2018/19 season.
His time at Ulster and Eastern Province bore silverware in the form of a Celtic League title in 2003 and two Currie Cups, in 2010 and 2012, respectively.
The South African, who got his start in the game as an Assistant Coach of Western Province after a career in law, also had prior experience in the English top-flight in a short spell as Northampton Saints’ Head Coach in 2004.
One to Watch – Ted Hill
With Worcester’s aforementioned Lions representatives unable to immediately return to action following their obligatory post-tour holiday allocation, attention turns to their newly re-appointed captain Ted Hill.
The 22 year-old, who was already an England international at 19, became the Club’s youngest-ever captain last season and has continued to develop and impress on the biggest stage.
Hill’s success was written in the stars after his debut brace contributed to Worcester’s Premiership Cup pool stage win against Leicester Tigers at Welford Road in 2018, and he’s since gone on to record 40 points in 44 appearances.
An honourable mention goes out to former Exile Matt Garvey, who will look to make his first competitive runout at Sixways for Warriors.
Classic Encounter – London Irish 42-24 Worcester Warriors – Aviva Premiership, 9 October 2011
A five-try haul at the Madejski Stadium saw London Irish pick up maximum points against Worcester to get their 2011/12 season back on track.
Irish had won only two of their first five games of the campaign prior to kick-off and tries from Steven Shingler, Chris Hala'ufia, Jonathan Joseph, Tom Homer and Adam Thompstone ensured the emphatic result in front of a 6,385-strong crowd.
Fan favourite Homer contributed 17 points with the boot, in a win that lifted Irish up to fourth in the table at the final whistle.
Tries: Steven Shingler, Chris Hala'ufia, Jonathan Joseph, Tom Homer, Adam Thompstone
Conversions: Tom Homer (4)
Penalties: Tom Homer (3)
Tries: Marcel Garvey (2), Miles Benjamin
Conversions: Andy Goode (2), Joe Carlisle
Penalties: Andy Goode
Ahead of the Round 1 fixture, Worcester Warriors Head Coach Jonathan Thomas spoke on the challenge posed by the Exiles this weekend.
"Under Declan Kidney, they have become a quality Premiership side over the last couple of seasons,” he stated.
"But the big thing for us is focusing on ourselves because we have new players that have had to get up to speed and new combinations.”
(Preview compiled by Ryan Fitzgerald-Nolan)