Next up in our series is Darren Allinson, a Welsh scrum half who had a seven-year association with London Irish, making over 130 appearances.
Following a stint with Bath, Darren hung up his boots last year to embark on a new challenge off the field.
“I finished playing in January 2019 and took a couple of months off to allow the body to recover and relax.” Said Allinson.
“I’ve always wanted to get in into the sports agency world and went for a couple of interviews with a few companies. I was lucky enough to get an offer from a company called Stellar Group. They are big in football, and also look after NFL, cricket, athletics and obviously rugby which is where I am helping out. So far I’m really enjoying it.
Joining ahead of the 2010/11 season, Allinson went on to become a big personality in the Exiles dressing room and looks back fondly on his time with the club.
“When I speak to lads now, they always ask about my time at Irish and honestly, it was the best time of my life. I made the move quite young from Wales and was a little bit apprehensive at the time, because it was the first time moving away from home, but honestly it couldn’t have gone any better.
“I made some unbelievable friends, who I am still in contact with now, and had a great time. There was a great group of players, great staff and coaches and I cannot speak any higher of the club.”
The first match that springs to mind when thinking of memorable moments at the Madejski was against his old team, the Cardiff Blues in Europe. Darren was Man of the Match but fails to mention this when talking about the game.
“It is always nice to play against your old team, so the match against Cardiff Blues in the Heineken Cup, even though we lost the game, is a memory, and personally I went quite well, so I was happy with the way I played there.
“Racing Metro away in Europe also springs to mind. I know it wasn’t played in Reading, but it was a great place to go and play in front of their fans and we beat them. I think Adam Thompstone scored a hat-trick, everything came off that day and it was great to be part of that.
“The best memory and the game I enjoyed most when I was at London Irish was when we played Gloucester at home at the end of the 2011/12 season. It was the last game of season and we put about 50 points on them. It was Delon’s last game before he went to Toulon and he really looked after me when I first moved there. He became a very good mate and still is. It was Bob’s last game too; he was a great captain to play under and good as gold off the field as well. I also scored my first league try which only took about two years! And Delon set it up for me.” Said Allinson
“I think what people will remember most was the big fight between Jim Hamilton and David Paice. It was a massive fight, but the best thing was, because it was the last match of the season, all the lads had arranged to go on an end of season social on the Sunday and we ended up in the same pub as Gloucester. Paicey and Jim were drinking pints together for the whole day, and it just shows in rugby what happens on the field stays on the field, we all enjoyed a beer and just got on with it.”
The squad in place during the 2011/12 season had a blend of youth and experience, not to dissimilar to where we are now. Allinson admits the playing group at the time were unbelievably talented.
“We had Delon on the wing because Tom Homer was playing full back at the time. JJ was on fire, Marland came off the bench that day and scored a couple of tries. Losi was on fire, I set him up with a nice try. I think Losi and Chris Hala’ufia were the two best player I played with and against in the Premiership. They were unbelievable.”
The relationships formed during his time is one of the big takeaways for Darren and he mentions he is still in contact with the majority of the players he played with.
“I think that is why I enjoyed my time so much there, the boys they were bringing in were incredible off the field as well as on the field. People like Dan Bowden, Delon, Steffon, Kendo and Garvs. It’s great keeping in touch with these guys. There is a lot of lads I’m still in contact with and it is great because we all really enjoyed our time at London Irish.”