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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


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.”

London Irish:
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.

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Content & Images from – London Irish Rugby

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Baxter issues Moon injury update



Exeter Chiefs

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.”

Content & Images from – Exeter Chiefs Rugby

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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 

Images & Content from Sale Sharks Rugby

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