“This is the club I want to be at so I’ll keep going until the wheels fall off!” – Reflecting on his journey so far with Ollie Hoskins
London Irish are sat comfortably in the top half of the Premiership Rugby table and, despite losing in the quarter finals of the Challenge Cup last week, it’s a time of huge positivity at the club. We caught up with long serving prop Ollie Hoskins to find out what the mood in camp is this week.
“We had the weekend off to reflect and lick our wounds a bit.” Ollie tells me as we discuss how the team reflected on the loss to Bath. “We were all upset with how we played. We made a lot of errors last week and, uncharacteristically, we gave away possession quite easily. It was frustrating.”
Forwards coach Corniel van Zyl had described the dressing room as ‘uncharacteristically quiet’ after the game. Hoskins agrees and talks about how motivated the team were but feels it didn’t manifest in the way they expected and the players were treating the game as a big occasion. “Gus Creevy is a passionate South American guy, at some of the meetings with the team before the game you could see it welling up in his eyes. He’s been here for less than a year and he was so ready to go at the weekend. I think that showed in his performance, he was unreal! As a group we were quite frustrated though that the amount of effort and desire didn’t manifest itself, so the changing room was a bit sombre but Declan (Kidney) spoke to us and said we don’t have time to kick dust, so we took the weekend off and where Monday is normally a bit of a slow day we flew into it in training and blew out all the cobwebs. There’s still a bit of lingering annoyance but we’re excited about the prospect of this week!”
Kicking straight on seems to be part of the mindset at Irish and they’ve shown a knack for bouncing back after, and increasingly during, tough games this season. “We’ve reset ourselves, we had a big meeting and looked over the Bath game. We’ve previewed Northampton and now we’re ready to go. We’re in pretty similar circumstances in a way – we’ve got aspirations to solidify our spot and move up the Premiership table and over the next two weeks we have the two teams above us in the table. It’s like a quarterfinal again, if we want to stay in the top 6 and maybe even push on into the top 4 these next two weeks are crucial for us!”
Hoskins himself has been with the team throughout the roller coaster ride of the last few seasons. He’s been there for the highs of strong wins in Twickenham and has slogged through playing the full eighty minutes against Championship sides because of the shorter benches. Those tough times have formed a bond between him and the club that has seen him speak out about his feelings on social media throughout season, providing a link to the fans who can’t be in attendance. “We’ve been in the trenches for a lot of the time I’ve been at the club, but that’s grown into the rugby we’re playing now. After the sort of performances we’ve had this season… it just feels really good and I like to be as genuine as I can about it.”
“If you guys were in the stands I’d love to be going and having a chat after the game, but as I can’t…” He says, clearly missing the interaction with the Exiles famously passionate fans.
Of course the sight of fans in the stands is not too far off now, and Ollie is excited for more London Irish fans to get a glimpse of the Brentford Community Stadium. “I cannot wait! The stadium is unreal and with 2000 there for the Sale game it felt like 10,000” Hoskins says, thinking back to the brief window where fans were allowed into Stadiums before we all returned to lockdown life. “It’s an exciting prospect, albeit annoying that we’ll only get the one game this year, but that’s better than nothing. I know I am personally really excited and I’m sure everyone else is too. It’s become a weird sort of norm playing in empty stadiums and you get used to nobody being there. You feel the support vicariously through social media and stuff, but there’s nothing like being in the opposition 22 or trying to stop a maul and the fans are up in the aisles banging drums and making noise, it’s the best feeling!”
With such a bond between Ollie and the Exiles fans what does the future hold for him? “I signed a two year deal last year so I’ve got another season. As I said after my hundredth cap this is the club I want to be at so I’ll keep going until the wheels fall off or the club decide they don’t want me!”
I can’t see anyone at the club deciding that for a long time yet!