London Irish loosehead prop, Tom Smallbone, has London Irish running through his veins, after already providing the Club with 18 years of service.
Tom joined the London Irish Amateur Club down at the Avenue as a four-year-old and has worked his way right through the Amateur Club and the professional Club’s Academy programme to earn himself a first team contract.
An U20 World Championship winner in 2013, Tom is thoroughly enjoying this pre-season programme under the guidance of a new coaching team.
“Pre-season has been really good so far. It has been broken down into blocks of three and we have just completed the first two blocks which have been made up mainly of conditioning and defensive work. The third block has seen us work on our attack and, with the new coaching team, we have built our new philosophy and there is a very positive vibe around the place. I was away for last year’s pre-season in New Zealand so for me it is great to be working on a full pre-season programme.”
Last year Tom spent pre-season down in Christchurch, New Zealand, after an injury-interrupted season which gave him some much needed game time. He played for Linwood Rugby Club whose alumni include the Club’s Head of Rugby Operations, Glenn Delaney as well as Ben and Owen Franks, of which the former will be joining London Irish after the Rugby World Cup.
“It was great to get down to New Zealand and play more rugby, the season before I hadn’t played a great deal of rugby so it was great from that point of view. In terms of the different styles down there, they like to play a faster and wider game which really tested my skills.
“Working with the Franks brothers was great. I was given a lot of tips, especially from working with Mike Cron as well, the All Blacks scrum coach, which was invaluable.”
Alongside Gerard Ellis and Richard Palframan, whom Tom has risen through the Academy ranks, they all share the same ambition to become regular members of the first team. Tom alludes to the fact that this is at the forefront of his thinking.
“For definite, that is my goal, I have been in the first team environment over the last few years, but last year was curtailed a little bit by injuries. I want to certainly push on over the next few months and really make a name for myself at London Irish.”
Tom will be action during the Cunningham Duncombe Series. For tickets contact the Club's ticket office on 01189 681 016.