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Preview: London Irish v Newcastle Falcons

Preview: London Irish v Newcastle Falcons

The Aviva Premiership Rugby bottom two will go head-to-head on Sunday and the significance of the clash is not lost on Brendan McKibbin.

The London Irish scrum-half helped his side to a dramatic 25-23 victory over Northampton Saints on Boxing Day – their first league victory of the season, which lifted them off the foot of the table.

However, it took just one week for Newcastle Falcons to ensure the Exiles returned to bottom spot, with the help of their 19-14 triumph over Bath Rugby last weekend.

That victory over the Saints was London Irish’s only four-point haul in their last 11 Aviva Premiership Rugby outings, though they have won their last three home clashes in all competitions.

They are out to extend that run to four when the Falcons come to town but McKibbin is taking nothing for granted.

“We all know how big this game is and we’re really looking forward to it,” he said. “Because we’ve had such a poor start, every game is a big game for us.

“The guys have got their head round that and we understand the significance of every game, especially this one.

“It’s two teams who are at the bottom of the table and need to be fighting for this week.

“I know Newcastle paint some different pictures in defence and they fill the field very well, so we’re going to have to be up for it on our attacking game.

“They’ve got a pretty deadly back three as well, so our kicking game needs to be spot on.

“We don’t look too far ahead but so far the mental and physical preparation has gone really well for this week.”

Last weekend’s home win against Bath was Newcastle’s first of the Aviva Premiership Rugby season, but they have only been victorious once on the road in the competition since October 2013.

As far as meetings between the two sides go, London Irish have won their last three encounters in Aviva Premiership Rugby and the Falcons have not tasted victory at the Madejski Stadium since November 2009.

What Newcastle do have, however, is Andy Goode – the former England fly-half who agreed to join London Irish before announcing his retirement in pre-season, only to return with the Falcons.

But he will start from the bench with Craig Willis, who kicked them to victory against Bath, in the No.10 jersey – and back-rower Ally Hogg has backed the young fly-half to pick up where he left off.

“Craig has been thrown in at the deep end but has coped well with it,” said Hogg. “He had a good game at Leicester and again when Bath came up here.

“He really fronts up in defence, he has won turnovers in both games and he is solid in that area. He will get better with game time and he can only benefit by having someone like Andy around the squad.

“I don’t know how much Goodey is going to play but even just having him here will make a massive difference, and he is growing in confidence.”

Madejski Stadium, 1pm – Live on BT Sport

Referee: JP Doyle (103rd Premiership game).
Assistant Referees: Greg Garner & Roy Maybank. TMO: Graham Hughes.


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