This Is The Big One

Posted on: 16 October 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Nick believes a win in Ireland this week could be pivotal for London Irish's European campaign.

We kicked off our European campaign in style last Saturday at the Madjeski Stadium and I’m delighted to say we’ve got ourselves off to a cracking start.

It’s very important you get off to a solid start in European competition as there is a fine line between winning and losing at the highest level and thankfully we made sure the four points up for grabs we’re coming home with us.

The Italian side Rovigo were our visitors and as I spoke about last week, we went into the game knowing very little about them without having done any video analysis.

Nevertheless we knew we couldn’t underestimate them. They had earned the right just as much as we had to be on the pitch and they offered us a very physical test which I’m glad to say we passed.

The final score of 78-3 was our biggest ever margin of victory and was our highest ever score recorded in Europe. They’re nice achievements but at the end of the day it was just a win and that’s really all that matters from our perspective.

The bonus point for scoring four tries (12 in total) means we lead the table going into the second half of this European fortnight.

On Friday we’ll be scrumming down against the Irish province of Connacht in Galway and we’re under absolutely no illusions of the task we face.

Going to the west of Ireland at the best of times is tough but Connacht are on a bit of a roll and I think we all realise this is the big one.

The weather’s usually not great with the wind thrashing in from the Atlantic Ocean and they’ve a good crowd making it quite an intimidating place to go and play rugby.

On the pitch they’ve been faring very well of late too. They’ve beaten Glasgow and Leinster in their last two home fixtures in the Magners League and last week they recorded a fine victory in France against Dax – the fourth team in our group.

The win against Leinster, who are Magners League champions, made plenty of people in the rugby world stand up and take note and it only serves as a reminder of the task in front of us.

It’s no secret that we’ve targeted the European Challenge Cup as a serious opportunity for us to, not only win some silverware, but also qualify for the Heineken Cup next season, a tournament we were very disappointed to miss out on given our performances last season.

If you look back on the Challenge Cup and see the names on the trophy in the past five or six years you’ll see plenty of English clubs have lifted the trophy. That in itself makes us believe we’re good enough and right now we feel we’re in a good position to challenge for the cup this season.

Everything is in place at the moment, we’re where we want to be right now from a rugby perspective and a win in Connacht would put us in pole position in Europe.

It’s an extremely important match and I know a few of us will be keen to get into the Irish spirit of things should we pull of a win in Galway.

By Nick Kennedy

Nick Kennedy plays second row for London Irish and has been named in Martin Johnson’s elite England squad for the coming autumn internationals.

London Irish visit Italian province Connacht on Friday night in the European Challenge Cup, kick off at 7pm.

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