Having entered a new contract year on 1 July, London Irish would like to thank the players whose contracts expired on 30 June and wish them all the best in their next endeavours.
Scott Steele has been a quintessential London Irish man having spent six years at the club since joining in 2014, and has contributed a vast amount in that time. Scott has racked up 115 points over 127 appearances for the Exiles and played an important role in the club earning promotion to the Gallagher Premiership on two occasions.
Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi will be departing London Irish to re-join the club that gave him his first professional contract, Northampton Saints. Danny joined the Exiles from Saints ahead of the 2016/17 season, having had a successful age-grade level career. Danny has made 50 appearances in the front row for London Irish.
Dave Porecki signed for London Irish in the summer of 2016 and made a huge impact ever since, topping the chart for most tries scored in the 2018/19 season and totalling an impressive tally of 18 tries in his Exiles’ career. Named player of the season in 2018/19, co-captain for the 2019/20 season, as well as taking on the role of the club’s RPA representative, Dave has provided an exceptional service to London Irish.
Franco van der Merwe has been a true stalwart of the Exiles, having captained the team on numerous occasions in 2017/18, named as club captain for the 2018/19 season and co-captain for 2019/20. He made 58 appearances for London Irish, acting as skipper for many. Franco has delivered an exceptional service to the club both on and off the pitch and we wish him all the best as he returns to his native South Africa.
Fellow South African Pat Cilliers has also returned home to his farm in the garden province of South Africa. Cilliers made 26 appearance for the Exiles across his two seasons at the club, bringing his wealth of Super Rugby experience the front row. Several supporters will also be familiar with Fines Master Gin, Pat’s craft gin creation, that has been enjoyed by many at the Madejski and Hazelwood.
Another Exile who will also be returning to his home country is hooker Saia Fainga’a. Having represented Australia at every age group, Saia brought a vast amount of international experience to Hazelwood when he joined the club in 2017 and has made 48 appearances for the London Irish.
Stephen Myler joined London Irish in the summer of 2018 and immediately took on a leadership role, bringing with him a vast amount of Premiership experience as third on the list of all-time top points scorers. His reliable boot has resulted in an impressive 266 points for the Exiles across two seasons, and his time at the club culminated in being awarded co-captain for the 2019/20 season.
Tom Stephenson’s pace, power and creativity in the centre positions made him a standout player for the Exiles over his two years at the club. Overcoming a nasty leg injury in April 2019, Tom went on to make nine appearances for London Irish in the 2019/20 season and departs the club with 40 points to his name.
Second row Barney Maddison made the switch from Ealing Trailfinders to London Irish before the 2018/19 campaign. Maddison made his presence knowing during his first season making 25 appearances, and he went on to captain the side on a number of occasions across both of his seasons at the club. Barney has re-joined Ealing Trailfinders for the 2020/21 season.
True to the club’s Exile Nation status, two further players will be returning to their homes on other side of the world as they embark on their next chapter. Bryce Campbell, born in Indianapolis, has returned to the United States and will be looking to add to his 32 appearances for the USA Eagles.
Alivereti Veitokani joined London Irish in the second half of the 2018/19 season, making an impact with several Man of the Match awards and an outstanding individual try in last season’s match against Ealing Trailfinders. ‘Freddie’ now looks to return to his native Fiji.
A trio of Academy players will be departing London Irish after being a part of the club’s acclaimed Academy set up in recent years. Second row Sam Collingridge and back rows Jack Belcher and Finlay Rossiter were awarded Senior Academy contracts with the club over the last two years, and we wish them the best as they pursue other interests, including a career in medicine for England U20s player Rossiter.
Director of Rugby, Declan Kidney, said: “I would like to extend a sincere thank you to all of the players that have left London Irish for their service and dedication, each having made a valuable contribution. They have all been a real pleasure to work with, and as they head into new challenges, I wish them nothing but the very best.”
Contract negotiations are still ongoing with a number of other players and the club will be in a position to update supporters with news on the squad leading into the remainder of the 2019/20 season later in July, when CEO Brian Facer and Director of Rugby Declan Kidney will host another Zoom video call.