London Irish on verge of signing new fly-halfBy Alan Manicom
April 13, 2012
Brian Smith revealed that London Irish are on the verge of signing a new fly-half after running the rule over 15 contenders for the role.
Exiles’ director of rugby said: “We’re close to sorting the number 10 spot. We’ve looked at 15-or-so fly-halfs and prioritised the guys that we want.
“We’re making sure we’re not buying someone with a tendency for injuries. We don’t want journeyman players. We have some really talented young players so we want to bring in world-class players around them to help them shine.”
London Irish were linked with Scarlets’ Stephen Jones, but it was announced yesterday that the 34-year-old Wales and British Lions veteran would be joining Wasps.
Smith said: “Stephen is a wonderful player with fantastic experience but he’s not for us. We want an English qualified or Irish player or someone with a younger profile who can grow with our team – because we’re looking at rebuilding.”
One of several high-profile departures in the summer will be Delon Armitage, who has reportedly signed a three-year deal with Toulon.
Smith declined to confirm officially that the England full-back will be joining his brothers Steffon and Guy at the French club, but said: “If Delon chooses to go he will do so with the club’s blessing and after 10 years of service to this club it is his decision when to make that announcement. But the Armitage family will always have a home at London Irish.”
Smith believes Irish will need to win their last three games – at home to Saracens tomorrow, away at Worcester and then against Gloucester at Madejski Stadium – to have any chance of qualifying for next season’s Heineken Cup.
Exiles suffered their six successive Aviva Premiership defeat when they lost 18-11 at Exeter a fortnight ago and Smith declared: “Our game management was poor and we were a little naïve tactically. Defensively again we had issues, we allowed them to score two soft tries.”
But he believes his side can win tomorrow against second-placed Saracens, who are still smarting from losing 22-3 at home to Clermont in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup last Saturday.
Smith said: “We think we’ve picked a team that can beat them. We know what they’re going to come with and have prepared accordingly.
“Clermont showed that if you can muscle up and match Saracens physically, and understand what they will try to bring with their kicking game, then it’s possible to get a result against them.
“Saracens are a kick-chase team. We have to play in the right areas of the pitch because we don’t want to concede penalties in our own half and give Owen Farrell a chance to take cheap points. We want to play in their half and Tommy Homer accumulate the cheap points. We want to keep the ball in hand and make it uncomfortable for their defence.”