We brought in some experience and the young lads are learning from it – Declan Kidney & Agustin Creevy talk London Irish.
Fresh off a combative five point win against Newcastle, London Irish turn their attention to Gloucester. The Cherry and Whites are rooted to the bottom of the Premiership table but will always be a tough team to play against. We caught up with DoR Declan Kidney and talismanic hooker Agustin Creevy to find out their thoughts.
The win was, in the end, emphatic but for director of rugby Declan Kidney there is still plenty for his squad to work on, not least because Irish had a couple of moments of distraction that could have cost them dearly.
“It’s one of the areas we have to work on, is to be able to play out the full 80.” Kidney said, conscious that his team opened up a strong lead before Falcons clawed themselves back into contention.
Losing dynamic two-way winger Ollie Hassell-Collins in the warm up could have been an omen for London Irish, thankfully it was a precaution due to hamstring tightness and the player is back in training having avoided the potential for a much longer time out. Hassell Collins’ absence allowed James Stokes into the matchday squad and he made the most of the opportunity with an eye-catching airborne try. “James managed to score a try, so it worked out well for us” as Declan says with a smile.
As one player steps out due to injury so another returns, with Terrence Hepetema back in a matchday squad for the first time in 5 months. His absence covered due to the short term signing of Billy Meakes. “That was always the hope” Kidney admits, “when Terrence had his injury the medics gave us a scenario in terms of return to play and we can go out and recruit somebody. The fact is that it’s fitted in just on the button!”
“We’re sorry to lose Billy, he’s been brilliant for us and another very good person to come into the club. That’s the nature of our club. A bunch of exiles where people come in, play and depart. He leaves with nothing but our best wishes. It was an HIA that took him out of the game at half time but he’s well on the way to recovery. We wish him well in America and look forward to a day in the future when we might see him again.”
Irish broke a Prem Rugby record on the weekend, their starting pack containing 402 international caps (with over a hundred more on the bench), a stat that speaks to Kidney and head coach Les Kiss’ recruitment process, bringing in experienced, top end internationals to support their core of young academy graduates.
“What we want to try and do is to encourage our young players to stay at London Irish rather than go to other teams. To do that you have to give them people to look up to in the dressing room. We brought in a little bit of experience, the other guys are benefitting off that and learning off it. Ben Donnell was out there toward the end of the match listening to the decision-making process from the likes of Paddy Jackson and Adam Coleman – do we go for the posts or kick to the corner? Learning how that process works is invaluable, especially in the heat of battle. That’ll stand the younger players in good stead.”
Another young player making the most of opportunities is Will Goodrick-Clarke, the loosehead excelled in just his second Prem start. Declan agrees, “I was delighted for Will, he’s worked really hard to get to where he is. He’s had to earn the right to play, that’s what we want to do for the lads who come through with us, they earn the right rather than just being given a game, that way when they do play, they’ll be really solid as Will was. He’ll be the first to admit he has lots to learn about the Premiership but I think to put in the shift that he did was a great compliment to him”
As we move into signing season Kidney is typically coy about who is in his plans. He tells us recruitment is well under way and that due to the extended contracts and flurry of movement prior to the restart of last season he expects there to be more stability than usual. One player hoping for a new contract is Argentine legend Agustin Creevy. “I’m really happy here, with my family. I have a daughter, she’s two years old, she’s started to go to nursery. My wife started work. The life here is good for me. It’s not the normal life with Covid, but I’m really enjoying it. The club is amazing, lovely coaches who are really professionals. The team received me as if I had been playing a lot of time here. I’m old and try to enjoy my last years playing rugby and I’m enjoying it a lot here!”
Has he been chasing for that new contract? “We are talking about it, but I’m enjoying myself in the moment. I think we have time to see what happens, but yes I want to stay, of course!”
It’s great to hear Gus wants to stick around at Irish and he has a clear goal in mind for the next few years. “I am old but I want to play in the next World Cup in 2023. I need to still be playing at the best level and I think this level is best for me and in an excellent team too. I try to be better every day!”
Striving to get better, even in the later days of your career is admirable, but Creevy seems a natural at helping lift up those around him too. So what does one of the best respected hookers in the game think of the young lads at the Exiles vying for his shirt? “I have a really good relationship with Matt Cornish, and with Benny (Atkins).We are speaking a lot about the scrum and line outs. Sometimes Benny asks me about scrummaging and I try to teach him because he’s a young boy who needs experience but I think he’ll be a really good player. Matt I think needs an opportunity. With Motz and me it can be sometimes difficult for him but I think when he was given the opportunity he played really well. I’m really happy with the competition with the four of us, I try to bring all my experience to them and I try to learn from their experience. We’re all different, Motz likes big tackles, Benny carries the ball… I learn so much from them too. I’m 35 years old and still learning!”
“It was the first time we’ve really played with all the international players together.“ Creevy says of the team that started on the weekend, “we had a lot of injuries when I arrived and fortunately now we can play with the whole team. That is really good, the team had an excellent game, really physical. I think the set piece gave a good impression.”
He is under no illusion that this weekend’s game will be any easier. “Gloucester is a good team, now they’re on the bottom but I think they’ve had some bad luck in their games and lost some that in my opinion they would win. We expect a really hard game, Gloucester is coming to get a win and we’re ready for a fight!”