London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney attempted to cool his club’s qualification chances for the knockout stages of the European Rugby Challenge Cup as they topped the preliminary standings after back-to-back wins.
Along with Ospreys, the Gallagher Premiership are the only team with a maximum 10 points, following a 34-8 victory at Agen in Round 1 and a 26-17 home success over Pau last weekend, but Kidney cautioned against over-optimism, saying only they now have “a good opportunity” of progressing.
“I’m delighted with the result,” he told the London Irish website. “For us, it’s all about the collective – and I was pleased with the team performance.
“You’re never qualified until you’re qualified, but we’ve given ourselves a good opportunity with back-to-back wins.
“It’s a different competition this year, especially with some 28-0 results floating around, which will have a say on things.
“But if you’d have told me 10 days ago that we’d have two bonus-point victories after two games, I’d have bitten your hand off.”
🗣️ @Blair_CowanTC was pleased with our victory against Pau on Sunday – but insists there is still more to come from the Exiles.
— London Irish (@londonirish) December 22, 2020
Kidney was particularly pleased that he was able to again include a number of players from the club’s academy in his matchday squad and that it didn’t affect the result.
“The single biggest thing that has pleased me over the last two games is that we’ve shown that we’ve got a squad here, not just a team,” he said.
“That’s what we’re trying to build here – a collective squad, where everyone knows the levels they need to get to, to try to achieve.
“For the players to come through these last two weeks with two wins is very encouraging for the future.”
🙌 How good was it to see @AdamColeman__ back on the field this weekend!?
— London Irish (@londonirish) December 21, 2020
Kidney was especially delighted with his side’s defensive display in Round 2, especially in the second period, when they were forced to resist a Pau comeback.
“The willingness we showed to work defensively as a team was impressive,” he said. “It’s a pleasure to work with players that are willing to do that.
“We’ve had two games of scrummaging against two good French sides – and the scrum held up well.”