Fixture: London Irish v Worcester Warriors
Competition: Gallagher Premiership, Round 19
Date: Saturday 5th March 2022
Stadium: Brentford Community Stadium
Declan Kidney’s London Irish side will be hoping to extend their three-game unbeaten streak when they welcome Worcester Warriors to the Brentford Community Stadium in Round 19 of the Gallagher Premiership on Saturday afternoon.
The Exiles followed up recent bonus-point wins over Bristol Bears and Saracens by negotiating the tough challenge of an away trip to Sale Sharks last Friday, with Nick Phipps’ late effort acquiring three points in a draw at the AJ Bell Stadium.
The Sixways side recorded an impressive victory of their own over Bristol Bears on home turf in Round 17, but that win was their sole four-pointer in the Premiership since their triumph over Midlands rivals Wasps in early December.
Saturday’s visitors head into the clash fifth in successful tackles made with 2241, a statistic that has scope to improve further in the wake of Steve Diamond’s appointment as Lead Rugby Consultant.
Warriors are expected to be bolstered by the return of Willi Heinz for Saturday’s visit, with the veteran scrum-half only playing in the opening four Premiership rounds before sustaining a calf muscle tear.
Whilst Worcester have won four of the previous five meetings, they have amassed just the one win in their last seven away visits to London Irish, with the home side winning nine of the last 10 match-ups in this fixture.
The boss – Steve Diamond
The departure of Worcester Warriors’ former Head Coach Jonathan Thomas was soon followed by Steve Diamond’s arrival as Lead Rugby Consultant.
Diamond is now supporting current Director of Rugby Alan Solomons until his departure at the end of the season.
A formerly omnipresent figure in Manchester, Diamond has pledged his services to Worcester for the next two full seasons at least, in an impressive coup.
During his time in Sale, he led Sharks to a 2019/20 Premiership Rugby Cup victory and to the knockout phases of the Challenge Cup three times.
As a player, Diamond made over 350 appearances for Sale Sharks at hooker before taking up the coaching mantle at Heywood Park alongside Jim Mallinder, eventually moving on to England Saxons and Saracens before a move back to his hometown in 2011.
One to Watch – Duhan van der Merwe
Warriors’ marquee summer signing Duhan van der Merwe has lived up to his presiding reputation after his switch south of the border, scoring six tries in 11 appearances since leaving Edinburgh Rugby.
The Scotland winger made an impact in the previous Six Nations fallow week, returning to Sixways to score a try in Worcester’s fourth league win this term against Bristol Bears.
Van der Merwe finds himself apace with Exile Ollie Hassell-Collins in the top 10 players in the division with the highest metres gained (968), defenders beaten (55) and clean breaks (11).
After representing South Africa U20s, the 26-year-old made an international switch to represent the Thistle after his three-year residency in the Scottish capital, and has shone in recent Autumn and Six Nations international outings.
Classic Encounter – London Irish 38, Worcester Warriors 17 – March 15th 2009 – Guinness Premiership
Toby Booth’s Exiles put in a five-star performance to keep their play-off push alive with a 38-17 win over Worcester Warriors at the Madejski Stadium.
Ill-discipline plagued the visitors in the early passages of play and Tom Homer made no mistake from the tee, with a miscalculated retrieval of Mike Catt’s grubber by Marcel Garvey handing Seilala Mapusua the opening score.
Greg Rawlinson’s well-worked retort brought Warriors back into the affair, but Richard Thorpe and Clarke Dermody’s efforts bookended the half-time break and made it more comfortable for Irish.
Whilst Willie Walker charged down a Catt clearance to score, the try-bonus point was within sight for the home side and following a turnover deep in Worcester territory, Chris Hala’ufia’s robust line saw the Tongan power through with James Hudson also rounding off the comfortable victory from close range late on.
Tries: Seilala Mapusua, Richard Thorpe, Clarke Dermody, Chris Hala'ufia, James Hudson
Conversions: Tom Homer (2)
Penalties: Tom Homer (3)
Tries: Greg Rawlinson, Willie Walker
Conversions: Willie Walker (2)
Penalties: Willie Walker
Worcester Warriors’ Steve Diamond was keen to commend the efforts of his players in a spirited 29-21 loss to Harlequins last week, declaring his team ‘should have got something from the game.’
“Our defence was 90 per-cent efficient as opposed to 75 per-cent last week and we pulled off some excellent cover tackles, but still dropped off a couple of crucial ones in midfield.
“The boys gave their all tonight and we were right in the game until the last 20 minutes- I’m really proud of them but pride doesn’t get you any points.”
One to look out for come 3.00pm this Saturday is Warriors’ back-rower Sione Vailanu, with Diamond crediting the Tongan who looks to become a Sixways mainstay after joining ahead of this term.
“He’s an impressive unit and he’s certainly taken on the mantle that I’ve offered him.”