The Wokingham Paper

INTERVIEW: London Irish ready to compete with Premiership's best says TJ Ioane

TJ Ioane. London Irish. Pictures by Steve Smyth
TJ Ioane. London Irish. Pictures by Steve Smyth

LONDON IRISH flanker TJ Ioane says that the Exiles are ready to compete with the best teams in the Premiership after a turbulent start to the campaign. 

“With our squad, we’re all here to compete in the premiership and we haven’t looked any further than this season,” said Ioane 

“We take it week by week and our goals and ambitions remain the same. You only need to look as far as the Wasps and Bristol games to show that if we get it right, we can compete with the best teams in the Premiership.”

The Exiles hopes of progressing in the European Challenge Cup ended last weekend after defeat away at French side Bayonne. Ioane remains upbeat the Irish can get their season back on track with victory against Scarlets in their final European fixture of the season.

“It was a disappointing result against Bayonne, of course went into the game with the mindset to get the win, but once again we couldn’t fault the boys effort.

“We just needed to be able to execute a few things to help us and that’s what we’ve been working on this week going into the Scarlets game. Hopefully we can correct the things that we didn’t do right last week and move forward. 

“We’ve got to focus on us this week, we know what the team is capable of, it’s just a manner of trying to execute our game plan and putting the belief back in the jersey that we can compete with these teams, whether that be in the challenge cup or the league. 

“Getting a win this weekend would put us in good stead going back  into the premiership next week. 

Following two weeks of consecutive European action, Irish return to the Gallagher Premiership fixture schedule with a testing away trip to second placed Northampton Saints next Friday.

“We’ve got to back ourselves and go up to Northampton with the attitude that we can win,” continued Ioane. 

I respected the Championship so much more since playing in it. I probably didn’t give it enough respect having come down from the Premiership but I got there and the boys that are there, some of the players playing in the league are just unlucky not to be playing in the Championship. 

“Coming up to the Premiership, there’s a lot less time to think with the ball in hand, the game is a lot faster and your tactics need to be executed at a higher standard and you can see the difference.

“It’s now a new year so it’s a fresh start. We’ve got to keep each other honest and represent the Irish jersey as best as possible.”

The Samoan international expressed his praise towards the clubs recruitment during the summer and believes it is vital that enjoy a stronger second half to the season in the club’s final season at the Madejski Stadium before moving to Brentford ahead of the 2020/21 campaign. 

“We’ve made some awesome signings, which has added a lot of knowledge and a wealth of experience.

“Everyone is willing to help each other out and wanting to drive the team towards where we should be. It’s a privilege for us boys to have some big names added to our team. 

“We want to raise our standards and they can push us forward, we have to lift our standards which is good for us and inspires us, we can learn a lot from these players. 

“They (the fans) have been so important, they are the ones we play for. The people that make the trip to places like Bayonne to come and see us, and the people who turn up even when things aren’t going so well are so important.

“Everyone in the team wants to finish this season strong to make a mark for us as a team. We’re not just here to make the numbers up. 

Speaking about Irish’s move to the Brentford Community Stadium ahead of next season, Ioane said: “We’ve had a preview and have seen some pictures of what it will look like once it’s finished it will be nice to play a bit closer to home. 

“We want to finish strong and then look forward to representing Irish in a new stadium next season.”

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