On Saturday London Irish’s players will make their long-awaited return to the capital, although not how the club would have dreamed it to be.
The Exiles will be running out onto a temporary new home pitch at The Stoop, home to Premiership rivals Harlequins, a ground they once called their own some 20 years ago.
They take on a Northampton Saints side who they defeated back in January at Franklin’s Gardens.
Irish were due to move back to London to play at Brentford’s new Community Stadium for the start of the 2020/21 season but with Covid-19 postponing the end of the current campaign, the club will be playing its remaining Premiership home games at the home of Harlequins.
Assistant coach Declan Danaher, who was part of the Irish academy when the Exiles last played at the Stoop, recalls how the rivalry between Irish and Quins was bigger than any other, one which will resurface with the club moving back to the capital.
“There was a real sense that Quins were our rivals and that was our biggest game of the year. If we won that game, or both the home and away leg, then where you finished in the table was irrelevant,” Danaher said.
“It was massively important; I know when I played nothing gave me greater satisfaction than beating them.”
Current Irish player Ben Meehan is also ready to get going back in London and excited for what is to come.
“We are stoked to be playing in London, at The Stoop. That’ll do for now and then we will hopefully get to Brentford asap and really kick on from there,” the Australian scrum-half explained.
“It is lovely of Quins to offer up their field for us to play on and it is in London, so we are happy.
“We love The Stoop and we are actually pumped to play there this weekend.”