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PREVIEW: Exiles and Agen looking for Euro joy

Wednesday 11th November 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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London Irish head coach Tom Coventry is expecting a "fully loaded" Grenoble side to visit the Madejski Stadium for their European Rugby Challenge Cup Pool 5 clash. - 13/01/2016 15:30

London Irish head coach Tom Coventry is expecting a "fully loaded" Grenoble side to visit the Madejski Stadium for their European Rugby Challenge Cup Pool 5 clash. - 13/01/2016 15:30

Europe should provide a welcome change of scene for London Irish as they search for their first win of the season.

The Exiles have lost all four of their opening Aviva Premiership fixtures, including a 45-14 hammering at home to Bath last weekend, and sit just one place from bottom in their domestic league.

So the chance to turn around their fortunes against Top 14 strugglers Agen has come at the perfect time for Tom Coventry’s side.

But they will be without scrum-half Brendan McKibbin who has been hit with a three-week suspension for stamping on Bath's Henry Thomas on Saturday.

It leaves the door of opportunity open for Welshman Darren Allinson to stake his claim for a starting spot at nine.

“I’m dying to get out on that field. It's a chance for a few of us who've not had much game-time to put our hands up,” said Allinson.“If I get the nod to play, I'll be very much looking forward to it. Teams like Agen and Grenoble are going to be really tough to face at home.”

Top 14 bottom club Agen are likely to place more important on domestic survival then progression in the Challenge Cup but will still be expected to bring a physical battle to the Exiles.

Under the guidance of former French international Phillippe Sella, who is director of rugby, Agen are returning to European competition for the first time since the 2012/13 season having secured promotion to the Top 14 last season.
Match Facts

  • London Irish have won three of their four matches against Agen, their only loss coming in the first meeting between the sides in 1999.
  • The Exiles have won 19 of their last 22 home Challenge Cup matches, including both of their home games against Agen.
  • Agen have won only once on English soil beating Bristol Rugby in 1997; since then they have lost all seven matches away to teams from England.
  • London Irish lost their last game in the competition but have lost consecutive matches just twice in their last 69 Challenge Cup appearances after losing their first seven games in the competition.

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REPORT: Irish off the mark with eight-try triumph

Saturday 14th November 2015

12:00 am (GMT)

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Loin des préoccupations de l'European Rugby Challenge Cup

Loin des préoccupations de l'European Rugby Challenge Cup

London Irish raced out of blocks to get their Challenge Cup campaign off to a dream start with an 48-10 thrashing of Agen.

The eight-try triumph came courtesy of first-half debut scores from Johnny Williams and Joe Trayfoot, with hooker Gerard Ellis crossing for a double. It was more of the same in the second-period with Alex Lewington going over for a quick-fire brace, with Rob McCusker and Sean Maitland also on the score sheet.

There was a moving moment before kickoff as the Agen players passionately sang La Marseillaise during a minutes silence in tribute to those affected by last night’s Paris attack. And it was the French side who took the lead through outside-half Francois Bouvier, who nailed a tricky penalty to put his side into the lead after just three minutes.

But that was as good as it got for the visitors as debutant Williams snatched his chance in the Challenge Cup limelight. Aseli Tikoirotuma raced clear after a Darren Allison break and fed the young wing, who crossed at the corner for a dream start to his first European appearance.

The hosts were at it again minutes later through barnstorming hooker Ellis, who broke through some weak Agen defence to bundle over the line. But Chris Noakes failed to convert, meaning Agen were still well in this game at 10-3 down. But the much changed Exiles saw their chance to make a statement, and it was another debutant, Trayfoot, who went over for the third try after some powerful forward play.

Not to be outdone, Ellis was at it again just before half-time. After showing his prowess in the loose, the front-rower was shunted over for the bonus-point try. Noakes converted this time for a 24-3 half-time lead. Irish were not done there though.

With Agen looking ragged in defence, wing Lewington dived over at the corner before McCusker and Maitland got in on the act. Biut there was still time for Felicien Vergnon to score a consolation try.


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