London Irish travel to Kingsholm on Saturday 9th May for their penultimate Aviva Premiership match of the 2014/15 season. And although there are only two games left, Exiles Captain George Skivington insists there is still plenty for his team to play for.
“We have been a tight knit team all year,” Skivington said. “It hasn’t all gone our way, granted, but we have got some good guys here and guys are moving on to new things so as a group it is important we send everyone off on the right note and play the best we can.
“Regardless of how things have gone on the pitch, we have always stayed united as a group and it would be nice to finish positively with some good results for those boys, and those who are staying, so you can go into the summer break positively.
“There is still the chance to climb higher in the table too, which we want to do,” he continued. “We want to push ourselves and fight to get higher up, and to do it for our supporters who have been great all year it would be nice to end positively for them too.”
And what better way to go into the off season than a win over Gloucester in their own back yard. Crowned European Challenge Cup champions last week at the Stoop, the Cherry and Whites sit just one place above the Exiles in the table and a good win for London Irish could see them draw level.
It will be a tough ask, however; Gloucester in Gloucester is always a challenge. A 75% winning ratio at home since the inception of the Premiership speaks volumes for their form at home. Skivington sees their potent back three of Jonny May, Charlie Sharples and Henry Purdy as one of their biggest threats; already with 16 Premiership tries between them this season.
“Their whole back line is dangerous but their back three in particular,” said the London Irish skipper. “But so is ours, and we have shown throughout the season that if some of our guys are given space they can score some great tries.
“They have threats everywhere, they use that back three a lot and with great success, they are very dangerous. Also up front we have a lot to deal with and will have to make sure we deal with them early on.
“They are in good form and playing some good rugby at the moment. Obviously they have just been crowned Challenge Cup Champions so they will be buzzing and pretty confident.”
Kingsholm is one of the Premiership’s more intimidating grounds, with the Shed faithful always ready to get on the backs of the opposition. A fiery environment faces the Exiles on Saturday, but one Skivington relishes.
“I think it will be hostile as usual,” Skivington chuckled. “The crowd never give you much there which is good for us to be honest with you.
“It is unique playing at Kingsholm,” he continued. “They aren’t afraid of giving you a bit of stick and a bit of abuse.
“But I have played there a lot now and I quite enjoy it. It is a good environment and hopefully it will be a good experience for some of the younger guys like Richard Palframan who may not have experienced something like it before.”
Looking past Gloucester, London Irish welcome Wasps to the Madejski in the final round of the Aviva Premiership. And although all thoughts are focused on the challenge ahead this weekend, Skivington admits he is looking forward to ending the season on home turf.
“It will be nice to have the last game at home,” he said. “Obviously Wasps are a top four team and are competing for higher honours so it will be a real challenge for us.
“At the moment we are just focussed on getting Gloucester out of the way first and putting in a good performance there but it will be a good game at the Madejski and hopefully we can give the supporters something to celebrate to end the season.”