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Match Preview: Bristol Bears (H)



Fixture: London Irish vs Bristol Bears

Competition: Gallagher Premiership, Round 15

Date: 8th January 2023

Kick-off: 3pm

Stadium: Gtech Community Stadium

Capacity: 17,250


A crunch Gallagher Premiership clash awaits for London Irish in Round 15 of the competition, with Pat Lam’s Bristol Bears arriving in Brentford this Sunday (8th).

Following on from a famous win at the Gtech against Saracens, Gloucester Rugby edged out Declan Kidney’s Exiles with a late penalty kick from Santiago Carreras to close out 2022.

Including the reverse to the Cherry and Whites at Kingsholm, Irish have attained losing bonus points in their last five defeats and additionally registered the third-most tackles in Round 14 with 138.

They return to their home in west London this weekend having lost just once in Premiership games since April, nevertheless, Bears are unbeaten at the Gtech and have tasted defeat only once to Irish since 2009, coming in a 32-49 defeat at Ashton Gate in 2022.

Sitting at the foot of the league standings with Irish in ninth, the West Country outfit approach the game having won their last three matches, including away to Harlequins.

A strong defensive effort at the Stoop (fifth-highest tackle count of the round, 134) saw Bears close out a scoreless second half from their team to win 15-12, despite having the least amount of visits to 22 (3) and carries (71) of the round.

Having played out a bye week, Bears return to the west side of the capital in search of a first pair of successive away Premiership wins since May 2021.

Throughout the season, the Ashton Gate outfit average the least number of kicks per game with 22.8, Irish being just ahead on 23.6, and also record the second-most metres per game with 425.6.

The boss- Pat Lam:

Before joining Bristol Bears, Pat Lam won Connacht Rugby the 2015/16 Pro12, their first ever major trophy before bringing even more success to Ashton Gate.

He spent a short time involved with Samoa as a coach before a move to the west of Ireland, competing in three Rugby World Cup campaigns for the Pacific nation alongside a cap for his country of birth, New Zealand.

In a short turnaround since linking up with Bears in 2017, Lam led the Club to a successful promotion charge from the Championship to the helm of the Premiership in three seasons.

Upon return to the Premiership Bristol finished in the highest table positioning of any promoted team in 12 years, then winning the side a first major trophy since 1983, the 2019/20 EPCR Challenge Cup, in what is an extensive résumé.

Time on the field for the 54-year-old is almost as impressive, playing for Crusaders to then go on and win the first Premiership title with Newcastle Falcons as well as captaining Northampton Saints to their first Heineken Cup in 2000.

Upon conclusion of his playing days, Lam started his venture into the technical area with the Scottish national team in their 2003 Rugby World Cup campaign to then move back to Auckland and Blues.

One to watch- Fitz Harding:

23-year-old Fitz Harding became part of the set-up at Bears as of July 2020, signing on to their Academy set-up after sharing the field with Exile Josh Basham at Durham University.

In his time in the north of England, he aided in a BUCS Super Rugby title lift for Durham and was then shortlisted for a Player of the Season gong in the tournament.

Having studied at Wellington College, Harding went onto Durham to study history and made his name in the university scene before being picked up by Bears.

A breakout season after penning his deal with Bristol saw the back-row forward make his Club debut in a substitute appearance against the Exiles three months later in the Premiership.

Harding possesses deft handling and bustling runs that will look to pose a threat to a London Irish side he has faced three times so far, having been sidelined in the return fixture at Ashton Gate back in September.

Last term, 22 first team appearances saw him fully integrated into the Bears fold as a senior squad player, and has since added to that figure with seven further games and a try against Perpignan in the EPCR Challenge Cup.

Classic Encounter- London Irish 38-21 Bristol – 4th April 2009 – Guinness Premiership:

London Irish strengthened their play-off credentials in a deciding result against Bristol at the Madejski Stadium in the 2008/09 season, whilst the away side were condemned to the second tier.

Scott Linklater pushed his way through traffic for a first try, leapfrogging Tom Homer’s opening penalty, but Irish were to fight back through forward power represented in Nick Kennedy sauntering through and then Steffon Armitage.

Having taken a nine-point lead into the break, Kennedy resumed his scoring tendencies to extend the Irish cushion but David Lemi’s intuition saw him race away for a score after telegraphing a pass.

It wasn’t to be for Bristol as Paul Hodgson burrowing over closely followed Adam Thompstone’s brace settled the game, a late Luke Eves score proving only as a consolation.

London Irish

Tries: Nick Kennedy (2), Steffon Armitage, Adam Thompstone (2), Paul Hodgson

Cons: Delon Armitage

Penalties: Tom Homer (2)


Tries: Scott Linklater, David Lemi, Luke Eves

Conversions: Luke Arscott (3)

Pre-match patter:

Bristol Bears Director of Rugby Pat Lam has confirmed that England front-row duo Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler, as well as Joe Joyce, are available for selection against London Irish this weekend.

“He [Ellis Genge] is excited,” Lam commented on Genge’s return, who has not played for his Club in over a month.  

“He was tied up with England earlier this week with Kyle but both of them are back, trained well yesterday and are in the frame for this week.”

Lam also took time to offer his praise for short-term injury cover and former Exile Elliot Stooke, who departed for Montpellier Hérault this week, and underlined the impact of returning players from the sidelines.

“Elliott Stooke was on a short-term thing, he’s now left which we purposely timed for Joe Joyce so he comes back in.

“Elliott was great, he came in and did a job for us; really helped us when we were struggling in the second row but it’s good to have Joycey back.

“The timing of the guys’ returning; you see the difference with Steven Luatua, who came back after a long break, also Semi Radradra – rugby players don’t like being out for a long time, they don’t like watching rugby.

“Injuries are character-building but it also allows excitement to come back into their game, so I expect the same from Ellis and Kyle.

“Both of them haven’t played for a while so we should see a lot of enthusiasm and excitement.”

Content & Images from – London Irish Rugby


RFU Statement on London Irish



The RFU Club Financial Viability Group has agreed to give London Irish a one-week extended deadline to meet the original conditions as set out below and pay the remaining May payroll to staff and players.

1) a takeover of the club has been completed and approved by the RFU, with the buyers undertaking to provide all required working capital to meet the club’s obligations as they fall due for at least season 2023/24; or

2) the club evidences that it will continue to be funded to operate throughout the 2023/24 season. If the club fails to meet these conditions it will be suspended from participating in the Premiership (and other competitions) in season 2023/24 to avoid a scenario where the club enters insolvency mid-season, with the corresponding and substantial impact that has on players, staff, and fans, as well as on the remainder of the league.

The extension, until Tuesday 6 June, has been given following consultation with staff and players who asked for the deadline to be extended to allow them to be paid 50% of their salaries.

Paula Carter, RFU Board Member and Chair of the Club Financial Viability Working Group said; “It is deeply frustrating for all the staff, players and fans that there have been multiple missed deadlines. 

“We are extremely disappointed that the club has so far only funded 50% of the staff and player wages, however, we have to respect the wishes of those most affected.

“The 4pm deadline on 6 June is final and we have added the stipulation that the club must also fulfil its contractual obligations to its employees by paying the May salaries in full.”

Content & Images from – London Irish Rugby

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Coenie Oosthuizen to leave Sale Sharks



Springbok Coenie swapping Sharks for Sharks

Prop Coenie Oosthuizen leaving Sale Sharks to join South African side Cell C Sharks

Sale Sharks can confirm that prop Coenie Oosthuizen will leave the club to return to South African side Cell C Sharks.

The 34-year-old Springbok, who can play on either side of the scrum, arrived in Manchester in May 2019 from the Durban-based Super Rugby side.

He’s gone on to make 94 appearances for Sale, including 16 this season as Alex Sanderson’s men reached their first Premiership final in 17 years.

Coenie made his debut for the Springboks in 2012 and has since won 30 international caps.

Sharks Director of Rugby Alex Sanderson said: “Since he arrived in Manchester, Coenie has been a massive part of this team and this club and everyone is going to miss him.

“On the field he’s a fantastic player but off it, he’s been a real leader for us in what is a young squad.”

Everyone at Sale Sharks would like to thank Coenie for his contribution to the club and the team during his time here and we wish him all the very best for the future.

Images & Content from Sale Sharks Rugby

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Leicester Tigers 23/24 Coaching Team



Leicester Tigers can confirm the club’s senior coaching team ahead of the 2023/24 season.

Dan McKellar, who was announced as the club’s new Head Coach in February, will oversee the rugby programme and lead on the line out and forwards coaching.

Brett Deacon will lead on the breakdown and contact area, while also assisting McKellar with the forwards.

Deacon made 135 first-team appearances in two spells as a player with Tigers before joining the coaching staff upon retiring in 2015. After working with the club’s academy for two seasons, he joined the senior coaching team ahead of the 2016/17 campaign.

Matt Everard, who joined the club midway the 22/23 season as Senior Academy Coach before taking on a permanent senior role in December 2022, is the Defence Coach.

After representing Tigers, Wasps and Nottingham as a player, Everard moved into coaching with The Archers before returning to Wasps as Academy Coach and moved into the senior coaching team ahead of the 2019/20 campaign.

Alan Dickens, Dan Palmer and Ollie Richardson are the additions to the club ahead of the new season.

Dickens will take charge of the Attack & Backs, Palmer is the Scrum Coach and Richardson joins as Head of Physical Performance.

Read more on the appointments of the trio here:

Matt Smith will be the Skills Coach for the senior squad and take on the newly-created Lead Academy Coach role which sees him responsible for the Senior Academy Squad and transition of players from junior to senior rugby.

Smith made 228 appearances for Tigers before coaching the club’s academy side after retiring from playing in 2019, and joined the senior coaching team ahead of the 20/21 season.

Speaking about his coaching team, incoming Leicester Tigers Head Coach Dan McKellar said: “I am excited by the group we have put together, which has a great balance of continuity and new voices who will bring fresh ideas.”

“It was important to me that there was a mix of people who not only understand the Premiership, but vital that they understand Leicester Tigers and we have got that in Brett Deacon, Matt Everard and Matt Smith, as well as the majority of our performance staff who remain with the club.

“In addition, to have Alan Dickens and Ollie Richardson’s knowledge of the English game, players and competitions we compete in is of great value, and Dan Palmer’s expertise is very exciting for the club moving forward.

“What is most pleasing for me is that this coaching team are excited by the squad we have to work with from next season at Leicester Tigers, because of where they are at currently and work they have done but, importantly, how it can evolve.”

Leicester Tigers 23/24 Coaching Team

  • Dan McKellar, Head Coach
  • Brett Deacon, Assistant Coach
  • Alan Dickens, Attack & Backs Coach
  • Matt Everard, Defence Coach
  • Dan Palmer, Scrum Coach
  • Ollie Richardson, Head of Physical Performance
  • Matt Smith, Skills Coach & Lead Academy Coach

The club can also confirm that Richard Wilks has been appointed General Manager.

Wilks joined Tigers during the 20/21 campaign as a consultant before being appointed Head of Performance Recruitment in November 2021.

Discussing the appointments, Leicester Tigers CEO Andrea Pinchen said: “I believe we have put together a world class coaching team, headed up by Dan McKellar, to lead Leicester Tigers from next season into this exciting new chapter of the club’s history”

“A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes to bring this impressive group who all offer their own unique skills, experience and knowledge from diverse backgrounds in the game.

“Most pleasing for me in this group is a shared desire to see this club continue to be successful but, even more so, strive to reach new heights together.

“After a turbulent year for all involved with Leicester Tigers, to be able to confirm our senior coaching team now is a great pleasure for me and I hope our supporters are as excited as I am about them leading this club into the future.”

The Leicester Tigers squad will commence pre-season training in July ahead of the 23/24 campaign.

Content & Images from – Leicester Tigers Rugby

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