Our overview of Heineken Champions Cup Pool B teams continues with a look at London Irish, who return to EPCR’s elite competition this season.

Heineken Champions Cup record

The Exiles have reached the knockout stage of the tournament on only one occasion, in 2007-08, when they bowed out in the semi-finals.

After winning five of their six pool games against USAP, Dragons and Benetton Rugby, they faced USAP again in the quarter-finals and triumphed 20-9 at the Madejski Stadium. However, their hopes of making the final were dashed by Stade Toulousain, who triumphed 21-15 at Twickenham Stadium.

Irish have competed in EPCR’s elite tournament three times since then – in successive seasons from 2009 to 2012 – but failed to progress from the pool stage in each of those campaigns.

Last season

Featuring in the EPCR Challenge Cup, Irish qualified for the knockout stage by finishing second in Pool C, notching wins against Section Paloise (33-17) and Edinburgh Rugby (21-20).

A superb round of 16 performance against Castres Olympique followed as they ran in 10 tries in a 64-27 romp, but their EPCR journey ended in the quarter-finals, where they were edged out 19-18 at RC Toulon.

Director of rugby

Declan Kidney had a short stint as a technical consultant at the Gallagher Premiership club before becoming director of rugby in May 2018.

He began his coaching career as an assistant with Munster – whom he helped reach the Heineken Cup final in 2000 and 2002 – and Ireland, before briefly becoming head coach of Dragons, until he left to take charge of Leinster Rugby for the 2003-04 season.

However, it was back at Munster where the Irishman earned a glowing reputation as a head coach, guiding the province to their two Heineken Cup titles in 2006 and 2008. Kidney then led Ireland to the Grand Slam and Triple Crown in 2009.

Key players

Irish’s contingent of exciting prospects are complemented by experienced internationals such as Argentinian hooker Agustín Creevy, Australian lock Adam Coleman, Fijian lock Api Ratuniyarawa and Italy centre Luca Morisi, the latter two of whom are fresh additions for this season.

Former Ireland fly-half Paddy Jackson regularly marshals their backs, while English back-row forward Tom Pearson, Scottish scrum-half Ben White and South African centre Benhard Janse van Rensburg are three of their younger stars.

English talents Ollie Hassell-Collins, Tom Parton and Henry Arundell can form a scintillating back three, with Scotland’s Kyle Rowe another electric option in that department.

Pool fixtures

Irish get the Heineken Champions Cup up and running by hosting Montpellier Hérault Rugby on December 9.

They travel to Cape Town to play DHL Stormers on December 17, before welcoming the South African side on January 15 and concluding their pool stage at Montpellier a week later.