Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Table-Topping Exiles March on but Casey Is Keeping His Feet on Ground; Green Giant: Australian Peter Hewat, Who Kicked 22 Points in the Exiles' 42-12 Thrashing of Gloucester, Has Proved to Be One of the Best Imports to the English Game

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Table-Topping Exiles March on but Casey Is Keeping His Feet on Ground; Green Giant: Australian Peter Hewat, Who Kicked 22 Points in the Exiles' 42-12 Thrashing of Gloucester, Has Proved to Be One of the Best Imports to the English Game

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRIS JONES

CAPTAIN Bob Casey is taking nothing for granted even though he looks down on the rest of the Guinness Premiership this Christmas knowing his London Irish team have wildly surpassed their pre-season targets.

When the players and management sat down before the first game and mapped out a season that would not involve the Heineken Cup, they vowed to reach the turn of the year in the top six and make the European Challenge Cup competition a serious target.

Irish enter the Festive period top of the Premiership courtesy of a stunning 42-12 thrashing of Gloucester at Reading, unbeaten in the Cup and determined to build on that in the second half of the campaign.

Casey said: "We all know there is still a hell of a long way to go before the four play-off places are decided in the Premiership but it's great to be No1 at Christmas. We have exceeded our own expectations so far this season."

Casey's leadership has been hugely important in a season that has seen the Irish successfully deal with the departure of director of rugby Brian Smith to become the England attack coach. Toby Booth moved seamlessly into the job with England veteran Mike Catt taking over as full time playerbacks coach.

The Irish success story has launched Delon Armitage and Nick Kennedy onto the international stage with England, allowed Casey to enjoy involvement with the Ireland squad after years of neglect and given Peter Hewat, their Australian goal kicker, the opportunity to prove he is one of the best imports the English game has seen.

Australian Hewat switched from fullback to outside-half against Gloucester and controlled the contest, kicking 22 points and directing operations for a side benefiting from the strength and running power of their South Sea Island players and the enthusiasm of youngsters who thrive in the big games Casey said: "It is a testament to just how good a footballer Peter is he can move from 15 to 10 and produce that kind of performance.

"He is vital to us and that's not just in terms of his kicking because he also has a leadership role in a very young side and his influence is crucial. …

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