10 March 2023
London Irish back-row talent Tom Pearson has explained the psychological shift that has been behind the uptick in the results of the west Londoners in recent weeks.
Four wins in the last five league games for the Exiles has hoisted them to fifth in the Gallagher Premiership table currently, and with five salient fixtures remaining, the 23-year-old is conscious of the gravity of the next few months.
Pearson has been a key factor in wins of late; combined with his famed work ethic, he has dotted down in three of his last four outings in Irish green in a scintillating stretch form approaching the run-in.
He explains the switch of attitude in the squad on the pitch in “being present in big moments”.
“It’s a really exciting time, both for myself and the Club in general,” Pearson explained.
“We’re expressing ourselves a lot on the pitch and we’re going from strength to strength, and being on the right side of results always helps.
“I think for us, it’s being really switched onto the big moments in the game and being really present in those moments.
“We know we need to take our opportunities at this point, whereas earlier on in the season we struggled a bit more with our red zone efficiency attacking wise, but also in defence.
“It’s about realising the importance of those instances in the game and trying to be clinical as well, it’s something we’ve identified and worked on from a psychological point of view.
“It’s helped us to get those results.”
His claims are only reinforced as Irish boast the highest rate of try scoring in red zone entries (35%) in the Premiership, something Pearson’s five tries have played a hand in this term.
Pearson himself has made more tackles than any other player in the Premiership this season (198), with a completion rate of 93% having missed just 15 attempts.
The flanker also ranks third in turnovers won (11) throughout the division this term, so it may come as a surprise to supporters that defence is something he has felt he needs most work on.
“We play a really good attacking brand of rugby, it’s exciting for us as players and the supporters too.
“It’s almost like organised chaos, everyone is used to where the ball is going to be at the right times and getting in those positions nice and early to execute those chances.
“Defensively we have had a really good buy-in, either to try and win the ball back or stop teams and keep them there through phases to either get the ball back through a turnover or make them kick it back.
“On both sides of the ball, it has been exciting this year.
“Defence is something I have worked on quite a lot; it’s something that doesn’t come as naturally to me, so I’ve worked a lot with Jon Fisher (Academy Forwards Coach) and Brad Davis (Assistant Coach) to help me improve, not just the number of tackles but the tackle type and how dominant that is.”
The physicality most associated with Pearson will be required this Sunday when facing the brutish nature of Sale Sharks, but the conviction of sticking to Irish’s game plan will be vital to success, in the eyes of the loose forward.
Throughout this week, the focus in preparation for Pearson and the team at Hazelwood has remained on recent weeks and less so on the 37-14 defeat against Sharks in October.
“We have to look forward, we haven’t touched on that reverse game too much and I personally didn’t play that match, so we take the pointers from our recent games.
“They’re a big side up front, so we have to neutralise them but also, we will try and move them around the park a lot.
“They have some big players, so if we can shift the ball and run them round to the right areas with our quick players, we will naturally break tackles and score points if we can play in the right areas of the pitch.
“It’s so important to get the ball to those guys and do a job as forwards to front up – we’ll take anyone on, but that will be really important for us.”
A meeting with Sharks is the first of three home games this month for London Irish, a schedule that elicited an eager and excitable response from Pearson.
“I’m really excited for the run-in, we have some massive home games and then Sarries away, who we have had some success within recent years but we’re anticipating another battle for every game.
“When those games come around, they’re going to be pivotal in regards to how the season finishes and how we look at the season as a whole.
“All eyes are on Sale at the moment, which will also mean a lot to us in these final games, however the magnitude of these games stay in the back of your head.”
Book your tickets to this Sunday’s clash with Sale here!