London Irish today (15th December) received a major boost ahead of its top of the table Guinness Premiership match with Gloucester on Saturday with the confirmation that three of its England players - Nick Kennedy, Paul Hodgson and Topsy Ojo - have committed their playing futures to the club.
In a major vote of confidence in the club and its style of rugby all three have signed new, three year contracts that will keep them with the Exiles until the end of the 2011-12 season.
For Kennedy (27) and Ojo (23) the new contracts continue a relationship that began in 2001 and 2003 respectively. Hodgson (26) joined the club from Bristol in 2004. In the meantime all three have contributed greatly to the club amassing a total of 340 appearances between them including scoring 43 tries: Kennedy has made 134 and scored one try, Hodgson 123 and eight tries and Ojo 83 and 34 tries. All three have played for England Saxons and made their international debuts for England in the past twelve months: Hodgson (one cap) against Ireland in last season's Six Nations championship, Ojo against New Zealand in June (two caps) and Kennedy (two caps) against the Pacific Islands and New Zealand in November.
"I've enjoyed my rugby at London Irish and am happy to commit my future to the club," said Nick Kennedy. "This was a big decision for me and was one that I didn't take lightly. The club gave me an opportunity to play seven years ago and has looked after me since. The Academy worked well for me and it's good to see more and more talented players coming through. We have first class coaches and are playing rugby that is enjoyable to be part of. We're going in the right direction and I believe we are credible Premiership title contenders."
Topsy Ojo said, "It is six years since I joined London Irish and I've enjoyed every minute. All my success to date is due to the players and coaches at the club and I'm sure there's more to come. We are part of something special going forward and it won't be long before we win that elusive piece of silverware."
"Continuing my career at London Irish is very important to me for two reasons," said Paul Hodgson, "I believe this club can help me fulfil my international ambitions and I'm confident we can win silverware soon. We have great coaches, a fantastic squad and a good set-up at the club, all of which made my decision easy."
Commenting on the three players the club's Head Coach, Toby Booth said, "I have had the privilege of working with these players for a number of years and seen them develop throughout that time culminating with their achievement of international honours. I am delighted that they have shown the same desire to continue their time with us and have established themselves as integral parts of the team and its ambitions. I think that this speaks volumes for the work that goes on here and highlights the club's intention to want to compete at the highest level on a consistent basis."
First plays second when London Irish and Gloucester meet in a top of the Guinness Premiership match at Madejski Stadium on Saturday, kick-off 3.00pm. Tickets are available via the Ticket Sales Centre on 0844 249 1871 or via www.london-irish.com