Lahiff will be top prop, says London Irish bossBy Alan Manicom
July 18, 2012
Max Lahiff has all the qualities needed to ensure London Irish cope without injured England international Alex Corbisiero, claims the club’s director of rugby Brian Smith.
Corbisiero is expected to be sidelined for the first two months of the season as he recovers from a knee operation.
But Smith insists that Irish have more than adequate cover in 22-year-old Lahiff and Tonga World Cup international Halani Aulika, a summer recruit from Leeds Carnegie.
Smith said: “The down side is we lose someone of Corbs’ experience, a potential captain of the team.
“But there is an up side too. Max is an outstanding talent. He’s already shown he’s a Premiership player.
“And in order for him to grow and improve, to kick on to the next level and be considered an England Saxons player, he needs to step up.
“Whilst it is a challenge for him, it is a challenge that he’ll embrace.
“And we recognise as a club that these are the growing pains that you have to go through.
“The signing of Aulika means that beyond Max we have good quality coming through – an international player.
“We are very fortunate to have three quality loose-heads and you have to expect that one will go down at some point in the season.
"We are just hopeful we do not get a double injury in that position.
“We know if we are going to win things we need 30 capable players and to be able to trust 30 capable guys in our squad.
"Whilst it’s very disappointing not to have Corbs with us at the start, we are very confident those boys will step up to the plate.”
Smith is also confident that Irish can hold their own on the other side of the front row.
That is despite the departure of top scrummager Faan Rautenbach, who was this week reported to have changed his mind about retiring and going back to work on his family’s farm in South Africa in favour of a move to newly promoted Aviva Premiership club London Welsh.
Smith continued: “We have challenges at tight-head as have most teams in the league.
“Leo Halavatau did a hell of a job at the back end of last season and probably has got himself to the front of the queue there.
"We also have Paulica Ion, who has a lot of Premiership experience and he is coming into the last year of his contract so he knows the pressure is on and he is going to have to perform well this season to be retained.
“And we have also signed Cai Griffiths from the Ospreys, who have been very successful in the Celtic League.
“He is a big fella, 28 years old and in his prime as far as tight-heads go and there will be competition for spots.”
Former London Irish player Glenn Delaney returned to the club as their new forwards coach this summer after a succesful spell as director of rugby at Nottingham.
And Smith said: “We are hopeful that under Glenn the scrum will really improve and we believe we have the manpower to really muscle up in the scrums and driving line-outs and obviously tight-head is a pivotal role in scrummaging.”
Brian Blaney, meanwhile, has been persuaded to stay on as cover at least until first-choice hooker David Paice completes his ban which will rule him out of the first four Premiership games of the season.
Scotland international hooker Scott Lawson, who trained with the club for the first time this week since joining on a two-year deal from Gloucester, is expected to start in the No. 2 shirt.
And Irish will also be able to call upon James Buckland and highly rated 19-year-old Gerard Ellis, who impressed in the JP Premiership 7s last Friday.