London Irish RFC is an English rugby union club originally based in Sunbury, Surrey, where the senior squad train, the youth teams and senior academy play home games, and the club maintain their administrative offices. It competed in the top division of English rugby union between 1996 and 2015-16, after which it was relegated into the Greene King IPA Championship. Whilst in the Premiership, the club also competed in the Anglo-Welsh Cup as well as one of the two Europe-wide club competitions—the European Champions Cup or European Challenge Cup, depending on their performance in the previous season. From October 2016 it will play in the British and Irish Cup in addition to the Championship. The club will continue to play its home games at the Madejski Stadium in Reading, Berkshire until at least 2019.
The team plays in green and white colours, with a black away strip. London Irish won its first major trophy in 2002, claiming the Powergen Cup (the competition that later became the Anglo-Welsh Cup). Irish also reached the final of the 2009 English Premiership, narrowly losing 10–9 to Leicester Tigers at Twickenham Stadium. In the 2007–08 season the team came close to a place in the Heineken Cup Final losing out to Stade Toulousain 15–21 in a tense semi-final encounter at Twickenham Stadium. The club's mascot is an Irish Wolfhound called Digger.
London Irish was the last club to be formed in England by working and student exiles from the home countries, following London Scottish in 1878 and London Welsh in 1885. The first game took place on 1 October 1898 against the former Hammersmith club at Herne Hill Athletic Ground, London Irish winning by eight points to three. The team benefited from the early recruitment of vet and Irish international Louis Magee.
London Irish manage their own academy, with players such as Nick Kennedy, Jonathan Joseph, Topsy Ojo and Delon Armitage having gone on to play for the senior side and be internationally capped.
London Irish play at the Madejski Stadium, in Reading. Madejski is the home of Reading FC and was opened in August 1998. The ground is a 24,161 all-seater capacity stadium, and was the largest used as a regular home ground in the premiership before Wasps moved to the Ricoh Arena in 2014.
With the exception of the annual London Double Header at Twickenham, all London Irish home matches are played at the Madejski. The largest crowd for a London Irish match was for a game against London Wasps on 15 March 2008 during the 2007–08 Guinness Premiership. The crowd of 23,790 was also the highest attendance for a regular season Guinness Premiership match until December 2008.
On 12 March 2016 London Irish played their first home match away from Madejski (and Twickenham), and also the first-ever Premiership match outside England, when they travelled to the USA to face Saracens at the New York Red Bulls' Red Bull Arena in the New York metropolitan area.
The club announced on 15 August 2016 of their intention to return to London and that they were in formal discussion with Hounslow London Borough Council to play at Brentford FC's new stadium. On 10 February 2017 the club confirmed that Brentford had approved their application to use the stadium for rugby.Notes
2016-17 Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under WR eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-WR nationality.
Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under WR eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-WR nationality.
The kit is supplied by O'Neills. The emerald home shirts features main club sponsor Powerday on the front with Etixx and FoodCloud on the right sleeve. On the back of the shirt, main sponsor Powerday is on the back collar while Pump Technology is at the top. On the shorts, VGC appear on the right leg. The club's logo is embossed diagonally across the bottom left in a different shade of emerald. The black away shirt is similar but with the club's logo replaced by a Celtic knot designEnglish Premiership:
European Challenge Cup:
Premiership Rugby Sevens Series
Cunningham Duncombe Series
London Irish also host London Irish Amateur RFC (a separate legal entity) for non-professionals to allow them to improve in Rugby. The team play at the location of London Irish's training ground and offices, Hazelwood in Sunbury. Some players such as Justin Bishop and Kieran Campbell have come through the ranks to play for London Irish.
Digger is an Irish Wolfhound and official mascot of London Irish. He has an important job of providing support to the Club.
On 30 May 2003 Digger won the "Best Mascot" award in the English Premiership at the Premier Rugby Marketing Awards.
On 23 April 2006, Digger ran the London Marathon raising money for Spinal Research. Digger finished the marathon in a time of 6 hours 39 minutes 31 seconds.
Digger was joined by his cousin, Duggie, from the 2006–07 season. Much taller and much slower, Duggie has proved popular with younger children attending matchdays. As well as Digger, there is also a real Irish Wolfhound, Mr Doyle, who also attends the home games. Before Mr Doyle, his Great Uncle, Jumbo, attended home games before Jumbo retired and eventually died.The Exiles once took part in an episode of Jackass. They were given the job of teaching Johnny Knoxville and Chris Pontius how to play rugby, no matter how rough it got.
A main character in the book, The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edward D Malone, a journalist, was also a player on the London Irish and scored a try.
YouTube phenomenon KSI (entertainer) made videos with London Irish at Hazelwood with Rule'm Sports.