London Irish wing Topsy Ojo skippers his side for tomorrow’s European Rugby Challenge Cup Pool 4 opener against Edinburgh Rugby at the Madejski Stadium (kick-off 3pm).
Ojo’s European exploits have seen him represent Irish in the 2007 European Rugby Challenge Cup Final and the dramatic 2008 Heineken Cup Semi-Final against Toulouse at Twickenham. Of all the players featuring in the European Rugby Challenge Cup this season, he is the leading try scorer with 18 tries.
The London-born flyer began this season in emphatic fashion, dotting down for a scintillating try in the London Double Header as Irish got their Aviva Premiership campaign off to a winning start.
Paying tribute to the lethal finisher, Exiles’ director of rugby Nick Kennedy said:
“Topsy's a superb professional who has really looked after himself throughout his time at the club, and he’s a terrific role model to the younger members of the squad.
“Having played alongside him at London Irish, you can see first-hand the influence he has on the team and I’m sure he will be keen to put in a good performance tomorrow afternoon.”
One man who will be looking to follow in the footsteps of Ojo is wing Joe Cokanasiga, the 6ft 2” bulldozer making his return to the starting XV tomorrow following an injury lay-off.
Cokanasiga, who was part of the England squad that toured Argentina in the summer, gets the nod on the other wing, while Johnny Williams and Tom Fowlie combine at centre.
Fly-half Theo Brophy Clews and scrum-half Ben Meehan are the catalysts at the heart of the Exiles’ backline, while Ben Ransom gets his chance to shine at full-back.
Up front, props Harry Elrington and Ollie Hoskins are joined by new signing Tom Woolstencroft in the front row. Will Lloyd and Josh McNally are the driving force in the engine room, with Max Northcote-Green, Conor Gilsenan and Georgian international Lasha Lomidze packing down in the back row.
“It’s great to be playing in Europe again after a year’s absence and everyone is looking forward to the challenge of taking on some quality teams on the continent,” said Kennedy.
“Edinburgh are a well-drilled side with talent right across the park, so we will need to be at our absolute best for the full 80 minutes.
“We want to get our European campaign off to a positive start and there is a sense of excitement around the club ahead of our return to European competition.”
London Irish: 15 Ben Ransom, 14 Joe Cokanasiga, 13 Tom Fowlie, 12 Johnny Williams, 11 Topsy Ojo (c), 10 Theo Brophy Clews, 9 Ben Meehan, 1 Harry Elrington, 2 Tom Woolstencroft, 3 Ollie Hoskins, 4 Will Lloyd, 5 Josh McNally, 6 Max Northcote-Green, 7 Conor Gilsenan, 8 Lasha Lomidze
Replacements: 16 Todd Gleave, 17 Tom Smallbone, 18 Lovejoy Chawatama, 19 Jack Cooke, 20 Isaac Curtis-Harris, 21 Scott Steele, 22 Jacob Atkins, 23 Ben Loader