Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Irish Cheek Tries Saints' Patience; Exiles' Decision to Parade Cup Could Backfire

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Irish Cheek Tries Saints' Patience; Exiles' Decision to Parade Cup Could Backfire

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRIS JONES

LONDON IRISH will parade the Powergen Cup around the Madejski Stadium before Sunday's Zurich Premiership playoff clash with Northampton - the team they humiliated 38-7 in this season's final.

It would have been a brave move if the Irish were facing Northampton with a full strength line-up, so it appears amazingly foolhardy given the fact injuries have left the Exiles in a desperate state.

You can imagine the reaction from Northampton: "Guys, the Irish are winding us up, but don't worry only half their first team is turning out."

Conor O'Shea, the Irish director of rugby, is aware of that danger but hopes the appearance of the club's first trophy as a professional outfit will fire up an expected 10,000 crowd for what could be the last match of a remarkable season.

The Championship - as the playoffs are known - involves the top eight teams from the league this season and with the Irish finishing fourth and Northampton fifth, the Cup holders have home advantage.

The Irish will be without player-coach Brendan Venter (broken cheekbone), captain Ryan Strudwick (both shoulders damaged), prop Mike Worsley (neck), flanker Declan Danaher (neck), lock Steve Williams (knuckle), centre Rob Hoadley (toe), No 8 Chris Sheasby (back), hooker Naka Drotkse (knee) and fullback Michael Horak (numerous injuries).

"It's been a bit like running a hospital ward this week with the sick and wounded piling up all around us," said O'Shea, who quit the game this season due to injury.

"We have been running on empty for some time and now all those injuries have caught up with us with Ryan, the captain, a good example. He played against Sale and then had his arm put in a sling because he hurt a shoulder.

"Somehow, we managed to get another two games out of him and now both his shoulders are hurt and he cannot raise his arms above shoulder level. …

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