European Rugby makes a welcome return to the Madejski Stadium this Saturday as London Irish lock horns with Edinburgh Rugby in the European Rugby Challenge Cup (kick-off 3pm).
The Exiles have been drawn in Pool 4 alongside last season’s Challenge Cup winners Stade Français Paris, Russian side Krasny Yar and this weekend’s opponents Edinburgh Rugby.
There has been a real sense of excitement among Exiles supporters ever since the draw was made in Switzerland in June, including the intriguing prospect of a trip to Russia.
Krasny Yar’s home is 4,500 miles away in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, a remote city which is the beating heart of Russian rugby. The progressive Russian outfit qualified for Europe after reaching the Continental Shield Final where they were beaten by rivals Enisei-STM. The venue for the Exiles’ trip to Russia is yet to be decided, but details will be on the club website once confirmed.
After playing against Richard Cockerill’s Edinburgh this Saturday, Irish travel to Paris next weekend. Stade Français lifted the Challenge Cup last season by virtue of a 25-17 triumph over Gloucester at BT Murrayfield.
Irish travel to Edinburgh on Saturday 9 December, before hosting Stade Français on Saturday 16 December. The Exiles round-off the pool stages with back-to-back games against Krasny Yar in January.
Looking forward to seeing how his side perform on the European stage, Exiles’ director of rugby Nick Kennedy said: “To play in Europe is what every professional aspires to, and the players can’t wait to test themselves against some quality teams on the continent.
“We are improving as a team this season and you could see that improvement against Leicester Tigers at the weekend. I was pleased with our second half showing on Saturday and we must take that spirit and determination into this weekend’s game.”
Irish’s last meeting with Edinburgh at the Madejski came in 2015 when they secured a 38-6 bonus point victory over the Scots to put themselves in contention to progress through to the knock-out stages.
A hat-trick from Andrew Fenby coupled with further scores from Alex Lewington, Johnny Williams and Aseli Tikoirotuma ensured a comprehensive win for Irish.
Kennedy is expecting a much tougher contest this time round, adding: “Edinburgh are in a much different place to when we last played them a couple of years ago.
“With Richard Cockerill in charge, they are a side that is very abrasive and physical around the breakdown and we are going to have to be at our very best from the outset.
London Irish welcome Edinburgh Rugby to the Madejski Stadium this Saturday in the European Rugby Challenge Cup (kick-off 3pm).
Under 13s tickets are £1 throughout the stadium and adult tickets are on sale from £18 from www.lidirect.co.uk or by calling 0118 968 1016.