London Irish Assistant Coach Declan Danaher outlined his pride in the young squad that reached another Premiership Rugby Cup semi-final with a win against Bath Rugby.
With the 26-7 victory, Irish remains the only side to have retained 20 points from an available 20 since the inception of the Premiership Rugby Cup in 2018.
Danaher reached the semi-final of knockout cup competition four times as a player, no mean feat, with it also being 20 years to the season that Irish last achieved consecutive cup semi-final qualifications.
The Exiles’ stalwart told of the headstrong mindset he and senior squad members have imparted on younger elements of the team to create a solid output in the tournament this term.
“I’m massively, massively proud of our lads,” Danaher stated.
“Rory Jennings said it in those first few games before his time in the Premiership that we need to have a bit of a chip on our shoulder from last year coming away from that final.
“He put it on the lads to go all the way and see what they can do, and we have echoed that sentiment.
“They have taken the bull by the horns so far, and have been led by lads like Jack Cooke, and have done so well.
“There may not be the biggest names out there, but the boys have got together, scrapped and know what they want to do – they want to get to that final again and put in a performance that comes away with a win.”
Far from a free-flowing spectacle throughout, the defensive effort required from both sides saw relatively a tight spectacle at the Gtech Community Stadium as Irish didn’t seal their try bonus until five minutes from time.
Danaher commented on the work rate out of possession for his team on the evening and adjusting to the tightness of the game.
“From the outset, I think you could see Bath were strong in their defence, they shut us out for around 20 minutes and we came at them hard.
“I said to the lads at half-time if they thought Bath would turn up and just roll over for us, then we would be kidding ourselves and have to think again.
“We would have to earn it and scrap for it, and that was off the back of our defensive effort which I thought was superb.
“The likes of Ed Scragg, Jack Cooke, Tom Hitchcock and so many others, the shift was immense, and it was great to see Eddie Poolman out there starting for us.”
As well as a notable defensive output, the Assistant Coach also analysed how his team met the requirements of Bath’s approach to the game.
“What Bath did come with once we repelled them was to look to kick, and I felt as though the backfield was taken care of superbly.
“Jack Walsh came in for Logan [Trotter] when he was injured and was very, very good, and he has grown since he started playing in the Premiership Rugby Cup against Quins – he should take massive amounts of confidence from that game.
“The same goes for Matt Williams returning on the wing.
“Our effort off the ball and finding ways to work with what Bath offered from the boot from nine was great, we may have been a little rusty in attack, but the pleasing thing was that we still created chances and could have even take more from the edges and scored.
“It’s good to have something to work on, and I’d much rather be having that conversation than addressing glaring errors but we will need to be that level when we get to the semi-final.”
Despite the festivities post-game, a serious injury suffered to Logan Trotter in the opening 40 minutes will no doubt cast a shadow on the occasion.
The young full-back signed with the Club before commencing the Premiership Rugby Cup this year and has scored a try in his five appearances as an Exile after joining from Stirling County.
Danaher emphasised the communal effort from the team in supporting Trotter on his road to recovery.
“He’s gone into hospital and is in the right place, we won’t speculate on what happened but it’s obviously very significant to head there.
“Speaking the physios, they said there was a fair bit of pain but he’s a very strong boy.
“I chatted to the lads and we all said we’d be there to look after him, he’s been a massive part of the squad since coming in but these things are very unfortunate and he’s incredibly unlucky to have it happen to him.
“We wish him nothing but the best.”
Irish name side for west London derby
Declan Kidney has confirmed the squad for Sunday’s derby clash with Harlequins at the Gtech Community Stadium in Round 16 of the Gallagher Premiership (3pm kick-off).
Will Goodrick-Clarke, Agustin Creevy and Oliver Hoskins are in the front row, with Rob Simmons and Adam Coleman in the second row.
Matt Rogerson captains the side from the six jersey and is joined in the back row by Tom Pearson and Chandler Cunningham-South.
Ben White and Paddy Jackson link up to form the halfback duo, and Rory Jennings partners Benhard van Rensburg in the centres.
Michael Dykes, Lucio Cinti and James Stokes complete the line-up as the back three.
“Whenever these two clubs pitch up against one another, it always creates a good game of rugby,” said Declan Kidney, Director of Rugby.
“I know that we are expecting a good crowd at the Gtech Community Stadium on Sunday, and they will inevitably create a great atmosphere.
“We need to make sure that we put in a full 80-minute performance to give our supporters a reason to show their voice. Harlequins are a well-drilled side, and we know it will be a difficult challenge this weekend, but one we look forward to.”
15 James Stokes, 14 Lucio Cinti, 13 Benhard van Rensburg, 12 Rory Jennings, 11 Michael Dykes, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ben White, 1 Will Goodrick-Clarke, 2 Agustin Creevy, 3 Oliver Hoskins, 4 Rob Simmons, 5 Adam Coleman, 6 Matt Rogerson (c), 7 Tom Pearson, 8 Chandler Cunningham-South.
16 Mike Willemse, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Api Ratuniyarawa, 20 Juan Martin Gonzalez, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Luca Morisi, 23 Henry Arundell.
Baxter issues Moon injury update
By Mark Stevens
Rob Baxter says he cannot give a timescale as to when prop Ben Moon will return to the Exeter Chiefs match-day squad.
The 33-year-old forward is currently Exeter’s longest-serving player, having made his debut in 2008 away to Sedgley Park, and is the last remaining member of their 2009-10 promotion squad.
The England international, however, has not featured for the Devon club since coming off the bench against Munster in last April’s Heineken Champions Cup clash at Sandy Park.
Asked by the media this week about Moon, the Chiefs’ Director of Rugby said: “I wouldn’t hold out hope that he’s going to be appearing soon. It’s been a challenge for Ben for a little period of time now, it’s not just been this season.
“He’s had periods in and out with it, it’s something that’s been affecting him for a little while and because of what it is we just have to be very careful with it.”
Moon has featured in all six of Exeter’s Premiership final appearances at Twickenham – and he also played in the 2020 European Champions Cup final win over Racing 92, and Exeter’s first major final when they beat Northampton Saints to win the 2014 LV Cup.
Moon won eight England caps in the 2018-19 season, but did not make the squad for that autumn’s World Cup in Japan.
“He’s still active around the club, he’s still here, he’s in training, he’s continuing very hard with his rehab and getting everything else he can right, but we’ve just got to be really careful around that neck.
“It’s probably one of those things where it’s getting to the stage where there’s not a lot more we can do. I can’t talk for Ben about his future, but you’re not going to see him in the immediate future on the pitch.”
TEAM NEWS – Sale Sharks v Bath Rugby
South African talisman Rob du Preez is set to make his 100th Sharks appearance whilst Alex Groves is in line for his Gallagher Premiership debut as Alex Sanderson names his side to face Bath Rugby at the AJ Bell Stadium tomorrow night. (Kick-off 7:45pm – Live on BT Sport)
Sanderson makes seven changes to the Sale starting line-up as his squad returns to Gallagher Premiership action following defeat at the hands of Ulster in the Champions Cup.
In the forwards, there is a complete change of the Sharks front-row as Simon McIntyre, Tommy Taylor and Nick Schonert all return to face Bath.
Cobus Wiese links back up with Josh Beaumont in the second row following a one-match suspension for a dangerous tackle in the Sharks’ clash with Toulouse two weeks ago.
Jono Ross captains the side in the absence of Ben Curry, whilst Sam Dugdale steps in to replace the flanker after his England call up to Steve Borthwick’s England squad. Jean-Luc du Preez retains the number 8 shirt with twin-brother Dan remaining on the side lines due to an ongoing hand injury.
Gus Warr continues to provide a platform for success at scrum-half and links up with centurion Rob du Preez, who is named at fly-half.
The ever-present Sam James retains the thirteen shirt with Ryan Mills picked at inside centre in the absence of Manu Tuilagi. The former Wasps centre is one of two changes in the Sharks’ back line.
Sanderson’s second change in the backs comes in the form of Tom Roebuck, who replaces Arron Reed on the wing after an impressive cameo in the Champions Cup. Tom O’Flaherty is named on the other wing, with exciting academy graduate Joe Carpenter at full-back.
On the bench, Ewan Ashman, Ross Harrison and Joe Jones are named as front-row replacements, with Alex Groves and Rouban Birch providing further cover for the forwards. Raffi Quirke, Luke James and Arron Reed cover the backs.
Sale Sharks Starting XV:
15. Joe Carpenter, 14. Tom Roebuck, 13. Sam James, 12. Ryan Mills, 11. Tom O’Flaherty, 10. Robert du Preez, 9. Gus Warr; 1. Simon McIntyre, 2. Tommy Taylor, 3. Nick Schonert, 4. Cobus Wiese, 5. Josh Beaumont, 6. Jono Ross (c), 7. Sam Dugdale, 8. Jean-Luc du Preez
16. Ewan Ashman, 17. Ross Harrison, 18. Joe Jones, 19. Alex Groves, 20. Rouban Birch, 21. Raffi Quirke, 22. Luke James, 23. Arron Reed
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