The Wokingham Paper

London Irish v Newcastle Falcons: Exiles must treat basement battle like any other game, says Ciaran Hearn

Ciaran Hearn grabbed his first try in Irish colours during the loss at Gloucester last Saturday (Picture: Paul King)

LONDON IRISH must treat Sunday’s basement battle with Newcastle Falcons just like any other game, Ciaran Hearn has said.

The stakes are high as the sides ranked 11th and 12th in the Aviva Premiership table prepare to lock horns at Madejski Stadium (1pm kick-off), where defeat will most likely leave the losing team facing both a long, hard winter and the real prospect of relegation.

The fixture is being talked up as a ‘must-win’ within some rugby circles, but that is understandable given both are six and eight points adrift of the next team closest to them in the standings, Worcester, respectively.

It is, however, strange the future of one of these clubs could be hanging on what is just the ninth league game of the season – but recent arrival Hearn is refusing to buy into such an idea.

“You cannot look at the table and say that this is a must win game, you need to look at every game as a must win,” said the Canada international.

“The table unfortunately does not lie, but in this division any team can beat any other team on any given day, so that is why every game is a must win.

“We just take it as that.

“We know what we need to do and we don’t want to be worrying after the game, so we need to make sure we execute our plays and take the opportunities which come our way.”

Centre Hearn, who signed a deal until the end of the season with Exiles back in November, bagged his first try for the club at Kingsholm last Saturday.

Along with another score from Alex Lewington and two conversions from Chris Noakes, Irish led Gloucester 14-6, only for ill-discipline to get the better of the away side as the opposition rallied back to condemn Hearn and Co to a 27-14 loss.

Defeat, along with Newcastle’s 19-14 victory over Bath, saw Irish slip back to the foot of the table, with the try scorer admitting lessons must be learned from the latest loss.

Team news: Coach Coventry makes two changes to his Exils side for crunch clash.

He said: “You cannot give away 10 penalties in a half – or even that amount in a game.

“The team which give away the most penalties most often goes on to lose, so that is one of the things we need to address.

“We started well (at Gloucester) and we had a great first half and then 10 minutes at the start of the second.

“We put some good phases together – and it is never going to be easy to play slick ball and quick tempo in six inches of mud – but the momentum shifted and they took advantage.

“We took the opportunities on offer but we need to be doing that for 80 minutes, not 60, otherwise we are going to be left to suffer.”

Irish will need to keep their discipline in check on Sunday, as Craig Willis knocked over 14 of the points which helped the Falcons break their duck for the season as the two strugglers now boast almost identical records for the campaign.

But Irish have won their last two games on home soil, and a third win on the spin could finally get the season up and running.

“Everybody wants to win – if you go into it wanting anything else then you shouldn’t be playing rugby or any other sport,” said Hearn.

“I don’t know whether or not the loser will be facing a hard winter or anything like that, but we are going to need to be more disciplined – and that is in both halves of the field.

“If we can look after the things we have been working on and get the phases of play right then I’m sure we’ll be happy come the end of the game.”

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