Last Season: 10th
Top Tryscorer: Alex Lewington (12)
Top Pointscorer: Shane Geraghty (164)
Last year was a case of ‘job done’ for Irish. Despite possessing the division’s largest permanent ground, the Madejski Stadium, and occasional bumper crowds, Tom Coventry’s men remain well within the ‘smaller clubs’ bracket of the top tier, and staying in the division is still the priority.
With London Welsh enduring a dismal campaign, that job was complete at an early stage, allowing for a free-spirited style that helped them boast one the division’s top tryscorers in winger Alex Lewington. But promoted Worcester will provide a much sterner test this year.
The Coach: Tom Coventry
A methodical Head Coach, Coventry’s appointment was confirmed in January this year, and he joined up with his new club this summer. Born in New Zealand, the former loose forward has enjoyed varied coaching career, taking in spells with Samoa and New Zealand under 20s, and claimed the club’s commitment to investing in new training facilities encouraged the move, but it could be a tough year ahead for the 49-year-old.
Key Man: Alex Lewington
Amongst a host of youngsters, the 23-year-old winger arguably holds the most promise. After joining from Leicester Tigers ahead of the 2013/14 campaign in search of more first team rugby, the flying winger has racked up an impressive strike rate, crossing for 19 tries in 52 appearances for the club in all competitions.
The pacy Englishman, who can fill in at fullback and on both wings, scored a notable hat-trick against eventual champions, Saracens last year and, having courted international interest, will be looking for another strong season with an England call up the definite aim.
Prediction: 12th, relegated
Despite an array of talents to call upon and new facilities at their disposal, a new coach will always take time to project his ideas and, with the relegation battle set to be tight, a sluggish start will make their aim of staying up an immense task. If they suffer early on, the likes of Worcester and Newcastle are sure to take advantage and plunge them into dangerous water. Odds for Title: 150/1.