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London Irish is an Englishmarker rugby union club based in Sunburymarker, Surreymarker, where the senior squad train, and the youth teams and senior academy play home games, and the club maintain their administrative offices, although the senior squad play home games in Readingmarker. The professional club share the Sunbury facilities with London Irish Amateur RFC and compete in the top division of English rugby union, the Guinness Premiership. The club also compete in the Anglo-Welsh Cup as well as one of the two Europe-wide club competitions—the Heineken Cup or European Challenge Cup, depending on their performance in the previous season. The club will play at the Madejski Stadiummarker in Readingmarker, Berkshire, some 40 miles west of central London, until 2026.

London Irish was founded in 1898 for the young Irish people of the city, following the formation of similar clubs in London, including the London Welsh and London Scottish, but it now employs players from a wide range of backgrounds. The team plays in green and white colours, with a reversed away strip. The club's mascot is an Irish Wolfhound called Digger. London Irish won its first major trophy in 2002, claiming the Powergen Cup (the competition that would later become the Anglo-Welsh Cup) and in the 2007/08 a resurgent team came close to a place in the Heineken Cup Final losing out to Toulouse in a tight encounter at Twickenhammarker.

History

Also known as The Exiles, London Irish RFC was formed in 1898 for the young Irishmen of Londonmarker; it was modelled on the already established London Welsh and London Scottish teams. London Irish suffered during World War I and the Irish War of Independence. It was not until 1923 when the Irish Free State was established and peace returned that the club was able to welcome players from across the Irish Seamarker on a regular basis.

By the late 1920s the club boasted its first "home grown" Ireland international in S J 'Cags' Cagney who won 13 caps between 1925 and 1929. The club developed a home of its own in 1931 at The Avenue in Sunburymarker, the first game was played on 5 December against London Welsh; the result was an honourable 8-8 draw. Although the club now play their games as tenants of Reading FC at the Madejski Stadiummarker in Reading, the ground at Sunbury is still its spiritual home.

The 50s was a period of mixed fortunes for London Irish. In 1959-1960 season London Irish only lost 2 games all season, featuring Ireland International players such as Andy Mulligan & Sean McDermott, Mike (C.M.H.) Gibson (played 1 game in the late 60's), Tony O'Reilly (who played a handful of games in 1970) and Ollie Waldron (who played in the late 60's-early 70's), all graced the Sunbury pitch.

The improving quality of fixtures demanded a change in attitude to training and playing as the sixties became the seventies. Under the leadership of the great hooker Ken Kennedy, with the assistance of exceptional players like Mick Molloy and Barry Bresnihan, London Irish became a force to be reckoned with once more. In 1976-77 the Rugby Football Union introduced proper club merit tables and in that season London Irish finished first in the London Division with six wins out of seven. The Irish made visits to France and famously to South Africa in 1977 where the club became the first touring side to play so many mixed race teams.

In playing terms the eighties were another period of inconsistency. The first team struggled to find reliable form as work pressures made more demands on players' time making them unavailable for regular training and matches. Happily, at the lower levels and socially London Irish continued to thrive. In 1990-91 London Irish was promoted to the first division with a side containing four new Ireland internationals: Simon Geoghegan, Jim Staples, David Curtis and Rob Saunders, the youngest ever captain of his country at 22 years of age.

The harsh financial realities of playing at the top end of the game in England gradually became clear to all the country's senior clubs including London Irish in the early years of the decade. Operating losses mounted and but for the generosity of key benefactors at the time, the club would have struggled to survive.

The financial struggles were reflected on the pitch where London Irish failed to make any impact in the leagues despite employing the services of a number of high profile coaches. In 1999 London Irish merged with London Scottish and Richmond to form a new umbrella company to support the professional team which competes in the Guinness Premiership in England. An amateur club was also formed at this time, London Irish Amateur RFC, which remains in Sunbury. The club won its first piece of silverware in 2002 by beating Northampton Saints in the Powergen Cup final at Twickenhammarker.

Stadium

London Irish play at the Madejski Stadiummarker, in Readingmarker. Madejski is the home of Reading F.C. and was opened in August 1998. The ground is a 24,161 all-seater capacity.

While Reading F.C. had received local authority approval for a stadium expansion, it now seems unlikely to go ahead following the club's relegation from football's Premier League. All London Irish home matches are played at the Madejski. The largest crowd for a London Irish match was for a game against London Waspsmarker on 15 March 2008 during the 2007-08 Guinness Premiership. The crowd of 23,790 was also the highest attendance for a regular season Guinness Premiership match until Harlequins drew 50,000 to Twickenham for a match against Leicester Tigers in December 2008.

Current standing

Current squad

 


Ins and outs for 2009-2010 season

In

Out

Current England Elite squad



Current England Saxons squad



Current internationally capped players



Famous Irish players

  • Gary Halpin (prop-forward, 11 caps 1990-95)
  • Rob Henderson (centre, 29 caps 1996-2003)
  • Niall Hogan (scrum-half, 13 caps 1995-97)
  • Kenneth Houston (wing, 6 caps 1961-65)
  • Tyrone Howe (wing, 14 caps 2000-04)
  • David Humphreys (out-half, 72 caps 1996-2006)
  • Ken Kennedy (hooker, 45 caps 1965-75)
  • Paul Kennedy (prop-forward, 2 caps 1986)
  • Patrick Lavery (centre, 2 caps 1974-76)
  • Brian McCall (second-row, 3 caps 1985-86)
  • Mark McCall (centre, 13 caps 1992-98)
  • Ronald McCarten (wing, 3 caps 1961)
  • Aidan McCullen (wing-forward, 1 cap 2003)
  • Alistair McKibbin (centre, 14 caps 1977-80)
  • Mick Molloy (second-row, 27 caps 1966-76)
  • Andy Mulligan (scrum-half, 22 caps 1956-61)
  • Brendan Mullin (centre, 55 caps 1984-95)
  • John Murphy (full-back, 6 caps 1951-58)


Other famous players



Honours



Trivia



References



External links




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