NEW SIGNING Petrus Du Plessis feels London Irish can surprise pundits and fans alike throughout the upcoming Premiership campaign, which gets underway on Saturday.
It has been over three months since the Exiles clinched their immediate return to the top flight but they are among the pre-season favourites to drop straight back down to the Championship ahead of their clash with rivals Harlequins at Twickenham (4.45pm).
Recent years have often backed up the bookies odds with the side promoted often falling straight back down through the trap door, but Du Plessis, who arrives following eight seasons at Saracens, believes Irish will not be in a relegation scrap.
“I think anyone who thinks London Irish is just going to play to survive is definitely making a mistake,” the experienced prop told The Wokingham Paper.
“With the way we’ve recruited and the players we have, I don’t think we’ll be in a situation where we just try and survive.
“I’m not saying we’re going to be in the top four. We never put any goals forward.
“I just think we’re going to be competitive.”
Du Plessis, 36, has been one of 11 new faces through the door at Irish this summer, including Saia Fainga’a, Luke McLean and Gordon Reid, while nine men have departed the club.
And the three-time Premiership champion, who revealed he decided to join Irish way back in November, feels the new-look side will entertain the crowds, starting at the national stadium this weekend.
“Twickenham is a great stadium and it’s a great occasion to play at the London Double Header,” he said.
“Your first game is always a good test of where you’re at.
“I would expect people to think the least of London Irish, being that they’ve just come back into the Premiership.
“But I think in hindsight, people will be pretty surprised with how good the gameplan is that we’ve got now.
“We can attack, we can defend so our game can be expansive.”
He added: “I think the fans will enjoy seeing Irish back in the Premiership.
“Harlequins are a good side, make no mistake.
“They are a dangerous side when it comes to counter-attack. They’ve got good individuals, but I think it will definitely be a fun game to watch.
“Whether you’re a Saracens, Northampton or Quins supporter, I think you’ll appreciate Irish being back in the Premiership this weekend.”
Du Plessis was among the try scorers as Nick Kennedy’s charges rounded off pre-season with a 50-12 thrashing of Richmond on Saturday, with Blair Cowan, Fergus Mulchrone, Topsy Ojo, Brendan McKibbin, Isaac Curtis-Harris, Ben Ransom and Dave Porecki also all crossing the whitewash.
That follows 29-6 win over Ealing Trailfinders and narrow 31-29 reverse against this
weekend’s opponents Quins earlier in the summer.
And Du Plessis says preparation has gone perfectly.
“We had a fantastic pre-season,” said the South African.
“We recruited well so the squad has a lot of depth.
“What is quite good is that we had a lot of input from Brendan Venter as well and the young coaches are very good at what they do.
“With regards to getting a really good gameplan in place, which we’ve trialled in the last three pre-season games, we’ve done extremely well.
“I think our preparation has been excellent so we’re very excited now.”