The wing can be a lonely place when your team are struggling – something Alex Lewington knows more than most.
But the London Irish flyer admits he must seize every opportunity to impress if he is to retain his starting jersey at the Madejski Stadium.
Lewington has made ten Aviva Premiership Rugby appearances this term but excluding a hat-trick against Saracens in September, he has scored just one try.
That came in the 24-9 triumph over London Welsh on Boxing Day – Irish’s first league win since September.
There is no doubt that the Exiles’ poor form – they currently lie 11th in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table – has limited Lewington’s chances to increase his try tally but the 23-year-old claims he has already accomplished one pre-season goal.
“I have been fairly pleased with my form – I’ve played quite a few games and tended to keep my spot in the starting line-up which was my main aim this season,” he said.
“I wanted to nail down one of the starting slots so I’m pretty happy with that but when you’re 11th in the table, it’s sometimes quite tough as a winger to get your hands on the ball.
“I just keep trying to look for the ball, try to make things happen in attack and try to be solid in defence.
“There’s a lot of competition throughout the squad – you look at the form of Andy Fenby so far this year and then Tommy [Tom Homer] is coming back as well.
“That competition for your starting spot is great – when we train and go against each other, the lads who aren’t playing at the weekend will give 110 per cent.
“You’ve got to stay on top of your game and if you want to keep that shirt then you really have to earn it.”
After a tough November in which they lost each of their five games, London Irish appeared to have turned the corner with a win over Cardiff Blues in Europe as well as the London Welsh victory.
However, they were unable to continue their new-found momentum at Allianz Park last weekend – going down 22-6 to Saracens.
And Lewington insists that although they can have no complaints with the result against Sarries, Irish are ready to put things right when they host Exeter Chiefs on Sunday.
“It was frustrating – we were coming off the back of a good win against Welsh at home in pretty terrible conditions and obviously we went up to Saracens and beat them last season,” he added.
“All our recent games with them have been close, so we thought it would be a tight game – they’ve got a massive pack and tend to squeeze teams and I think they just beat us up front.
“When we did get the ball to our backs we weren’t clinical enough to take the opportunities we got, so it is quite frustrating but I don’t think we need to panic too much.
“We’ve taken the loss on the chin and we’re moving forward to the Exeter game this weekend now.”
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