Booth: This is the best London Irish squad everBy Alan Manicom
August 26, 2009
Toby Booth believes he will go into the new season with the best London Irish squad in the club’s history.
The Exiles coach insists for the first time there is the strength in depth to compete seriously for both the Guinness Premiership Championship and the Heineken Cup.
Booth said: “In the past our seasons in the Premiership have wavered when we have had Heineken Cup success.
“But players love testing themselves against the best in the world and we believe we have the squad to fight on two fronts.
“We will give the Heineken Cup a massive part of our focus, but we will not let it shift our concentration away from the Premiership and what we want to achieve there.”
As Irish prepare to face European champions Leinster in Dublin on Friday in their final warm-up game of the season, Booth declared: “In my opinion the squad is the most competitive the club has had in the professional era.”
The Exiles boss is well aware that his star-studded side will be hit harder by international call-ups than ever before.
He said: “Because we have been successful, we will be without more players. But we have also been more realistic about that and we are better covered.
“You cannot plan for injuries, but we have better strength in depth.”
The Exiles’ playing squad has been boosted by eight new players, including full internationals Paulica Ion (Romania) and George Stowers (Samoa).
And Booth added: “By signing acknowledged goal kickers like Ryan Lamb, Jamie Lennard and Chris Malone and working hard with Delon Armitage, Peter Howatt and Tom Homer we believe we have plenty of kicking options.”
Booth is well aware that Irish have gone from perennial Championship underdogs to second favourites this season and will have the weight of expectation on their shoulders when they open their campaign in the London Double Header against Saracens at Twickenham on September 5.
But he insists: “We are aware of the pitfalls. This group is extremely ambitious, though, and we are confident that if we keep our expectations real, we can have a very successful season.”