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Dublin: 12°C Monday 14 June 2021

Green pastures: Ian Humphreys on life with London Irish

Each week, catches up with an Irish player or coach plying their rugby trade in the Aviva Premiership.

Ian Humphreys is in his second Premiership stint.
Ian Humphreys is in his second Premiership stint.
Image: Credit: Pinnacle Photography
  • Club: London Irish  - Player: Ian Humphreys (Out-half)

When Ian Humphreys made the move from England to play for his home province of Ulster, he thought he had found the place to see out his playing days.

Four seasons later and the out-half finds himself part of the revolution taking place at London Irish.

The team has said goodbye to stalwarts such as Bob Casey, Delon Armitage and Mike Catt in recent years while drafting in a mix of youth and experience.

Under new coaches Brian Smith and Shaun Edwards, Irish struggled in the opening weeks of the Aviva Premiership but last Saturday’s match against Bath, when Humphreys was teamed up with scrum-half Tomás O’Leary, they won 29-22. caught up with Humphreys to get a run-down on London life with the Exiles.

“The first few league games weren’t ideal,” he said. “We weren’t a million miles away from getting off the mark so it wasn’t too much of a concern. We had a couple of defensive lapses in the games that didn’t help.

We were involved in a tight game at the weekend and still pulled through. We showed that we were good enough to win ugly. We are well known for our attractive brand of rugby but it was good to show that we could tough it out when we needed.

“Before the start of the season, there were injuries to Chris Hala’ufia and Joe Ansbro. We have a few guys coming back from injury and suspensions too and, with new coaches like Brian and Shaun, and the systems and tactics are starting to bed in.

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“Now that we’ve beaten Bath we can bash on, win a few games and climb the table.”

Settling in

Humphreys’ wife, Jenny, and their children have all joined him in London and the 30-year-old signed a three-year deal with the Exiles that provides job security. He said:

I’ve always believed that when you are happy at home you’re happy at rugby. It is a change from village life in Northern Ireland. Jenny and I both grew up in Broughshane, which is 36 miles north of Belfast.

“When I wasn’t playing and training near the start of the season I didn’t feel part of the squad but I’ve settled in well now.”

It has certainly helped Humphreys to have O’Leary as part of a reliable half-back pairing. The Ulster man calls him ‘a quality operator’ and has backed the former Munster scrum-half to force his way back into the international reckoning with Ireland.

The duo, aided by talented attackers such as Shane Geraghty and Steve Shingler, will hope to steadily climb the table in coming weeks.

“We want to string together a few back-to-back victories,” said Hunmphreys, “but we are under no illusions how tough it will be against a very strong Worcester Warriors team on Friday.”

Elsewhere in the Aviva Premiership

Northampton Saints will look to continue their unbeaten run on Friday when they entertain eighth placed London Wasps at Franklin’s Gardens. Sale Sharks, the only team without a league win so far, play Bath at The Rec on Saturday afternoon, while Exeter Chiefs will face a Leicester Tigers side still smarting from their defeat by Harlequins last weekend.

League-leading ‘Quins are at home to Saracens on Sunday. Irish coaches Conor O’Shea and Mark McCall will be in direct competition on the sidelines. London Welsh round out the weekend by welcoming Gloucester to the Kassam Stadium.

Read: Brian O’Driscoll rules out retirement and targets World Cup success

Pro12: New boy Denton warming to life with European champions Leinster

About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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