Ben White looked towards the prospect of an exciting future for London Irish after the Exiles clinched their highest Premiership positioning since 2009 over the weekend.
With big results projecting Irish to lofty heights, White affirmed that it is a clear sign of the “ambition and growth” from the playing squad throughout this season.
Coming out on top to beat Exeter Chiefs 17-14 at the Gtech Community Stadium was also testament to Irish’s togetherness and will to pull on the jersey, according to the scrum-half.
White did suffer an injury to his left leg during the Chiefs clash, consequently being replaced on 56 minutes but he battled on through bandaging to aid in Irish’s win.
“I’m a bit sore, I probably panicked myself but I’m still together.
“It’s sport, it is what it is if you get injured but I truly believe the coaches, playing group and the way we play have really allowed me to get better this season regardless,” White believes.
“I really enjoy turning up to work to play, it can be tough at times, but I want to keep working hard to improve.
“I wasn’t worried about the summer and beyond just yet, my focus was to getting London Irish to a good position.”
An outpouring of emotion followed Luke Pearce’s final whistle after an “up and down” campaign, with players and staff taking to the field to applaud the support shown by fans that gameweek.
“As everyone knows, it’s been a tough week but the celebrations show a real togetherness throughout the whole organisation.
“That’s not just the playing group, but it’s the staff and the off-field team, it’s a really good Club filled with great people and that was a special moment shared with the fans.
“It’s been up and down; we were rock bottom before Christmas, broke into the top four then missed out on the top four, but to finish fifth is great – it’s the highest finish in nearly 15 years.
“It shows the ambition we have and the quality of the group we possess, it’s exciting times ahead.”
Irish has attained the join-highest number of losing bonus points this year (7, = Bath Rugby and Gloucester Rugby), crucial pick-ups that contributed to breaching into the top six.
The tightness of such results, a number of which were decided in the final quarter of action, saw Irish come out on top in a reversal of fortunes for the Club’s narrowest victory of the league campaign.
White believes it was an evident indicator of the squad’s mindset manifesting itself in the Round 24 result, with a core element of creating such important results arriving from the Club’s youthful production line.
“That’s just the league in general, there’s been a lot of games across the competition where they have been really close but that Chiefs game shows the growth in the group and where we have got to at this point.
“A game like that we probably would have lost at the start of the season, we let too many slip in the first half of the season and Dec [Kidney] has said throughout the year that we have to take on learnings from those losses.
“Slowly and slowly, we have stacked up as a group and the young players coming through have shown their character, T [Tarek Haffar] came on there to get a scrum penalty and win the game for us!
“That is immense, it shows the level of coaches we have and the players they’re bringing through.”
With Academy pride being at an all-time high, continuous representation at senior Club and international levels has remained the bedrock of the Exiles’ advancement up the table.
Three Irish Academy products (Henry Arundell, Ollie Hassell-Collins and Will Joseph) earned senior England caps over the last 12 months, alongside eight Senior Academy debuts in the first team in the 2022/23 season.
That’s not to mention White attaining eight of his 14 career Scotland appearances this season, whose place in Scotland’s 2023 Rugby World Cup training squad was confirmed this week.
He continued: “We have a great crop of youngsters, a bunch of experienced players and if we can combine that more consistently, that togetherness can take the Club forward.
“Those young lads really work hard to get better, even during this week despite the circumstances, they were all out there doing extras, laughed about it and moved on!
“It shows how much it means to pull on the shirt to make sure this Club is going in the correct direction.”
After signing off the campaign on a positive note with an accompanying four points, White is confident things will only get better for Irish in the coming months.
“Things will take time, we trust that things will get done and we all know how brilliant this Club is.
“We’ve shown why we’re force in this league and that we’re not a team that wants to settle for those European places – we want to try and push on and win trophies.
“We didn’t this season, that’s probably down to those first games that we couldn’t close out but the growth in the group, along with younger players getting more experience, will undoubtedly make us stronger.
“We have tried to stay united and look after the off-field staff to make sure everyone was in it together, we’re all human and a lot of people have worked incredibly hard to draw such a big crowd on Saturday.
“That’s what it’s about, because without that team behind the team, the game wouldn’t have happened.
“We’ve shown how strong we are as a Club, and now, I’m looking forward to what comes next.”