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On-loan Irish Exiles to the fore in the British & Irish Cup

10 October 2011

  • Welsh out to maintain winning ways
  • Irish Exiles set to feature for the Old Deer Park outfit
Irish Exiles to the fore as Welsh face Bedford at Sunbury

Photo: RFU Archive

The British & Irish Cup comes to Sunbury on Wednesday (October 12, 7:30pm) with the visit of Bedford Blues, only it won’t be London Irish in action, but fellow Exiles London Welsh.

The Old Deer Park outfit will be out to maintain their winning start to Pool 4 and follow up their opening round victory over London Scottish, while the Blues also kicked off their campaign with a bonus point win.

But while it may not be London Irish taking to the field on Wednesday evening at Sunbury, there’ll be no lack of an Irish presence in London Welsh ranks thanks to on-loan signings scrum half Jack Moates and second row Gary Johnson.

Add in former Sunbury favourites James Tideswell, Ben Stevenson and Edd Thrower, as well as the possibility of Jamie Lennard and Jonathan Fisher lining out for the Blues, and there’ll be plenty of passing interest for any London Irish supporters at a loose end.

“It’s really good; I’m enjoying it and there’s a good team spirit at London Welsh,” said Moates, who marked his debut for Welsh with a try against London Irish in the sides’ pre-season friendly at Sunbury.

“It was in front of Toby Booth, which was nice. It was good start, followed the next week by Gloucester and winning at Kingsholm. I couldn’t have asked for a much better start.

“I’m getting the opportunity at Welsh to play and train under Lyn (Jones – head coach). He’s a good coach and he’s got some great ideas.

“It’s good to get game time because obviously at Irish I’m down the pecking order being the youngest. I’m getting more opportunities to play at London Welsh.”

A graduate of the Sunbury club’s Advanced Apprenticeship in Sports Excellence (AASE) program at St Paul’s Catholic College, Moates joined Irish’s senior Academy in June, having first joined the club when he was 14.

He was ever-present in the Aviva A League for Irish last season, playing alongside the likes of Ryan Lamb and Chris Malone, and was also top try-scorer for St Paul's in the AASE league,with 13 touchdowns.

It's more physical, especially in the Championship – Moates

Now cutting his teeth in the Championship and British & Irish Cup, Moates has made five appearances for Welsh so far this season, including the Exiles’ notable 24-23 pre-season win over Gloucester at Kingsholm.

“It’s more physical, especially in the Championship, and it’s high quality. You come up against some big forwards. I get knocks every time I play,” he said.

“It’s all about game time at a young age, especially for a scrum half. The more time I spend on the field, the better I’m going to be.”

At Welsh, Moates is also getting the benefits of learning under the wing of former Scotland international fly half Gordon Ross.

“He tells you when you’re doing well and he lets you know when you’re doing something wrong. He’s got high standards and he expects the best, and that’s really good,” said Moates, who is understandably keen to feature against Bedford on Wednesday at Sunbury.

“I’m definitely eager to play. Hopefully the weather stays nice and it’s not raining, and hopefully we can carry on our good start to the British and Irish Cup against a strong Bedford team. A good crowd would be nice,” he said.

Welsh have been drawn in Pool 4 of the British & Irish Cup along with Esher, Llanelli and Melrose, but will play the teams from neighbouring Pool 3 – Aberavon, Bedford Blues, Leinster and London Scottish.

With London Welsh and London Irish earlier this year confirming the extension of their player affiliation agreement for a third year, Moates and Johnson are unlikely to be the only two London Irish players displaying their skills at Old Deer Park this season.

Last season ten London Irish players turned out for Welsh in the Championship and British & Irish Cup, up on seven from the previous campaign.

Under the affiliation agreement for 2011/12, England Academy players Marland Yarde, Max Lahiff, Guy Armitage and Kieran Low are all dual-registered with Welsh, while scrum half Ross Samson, prop Leo Halavatau, centre Jonathon Spratt, fly half Steven Shingler, lock James Sandford, and prop Mark George could also feature in Welsh colours.