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Takeover deal edges closer for London Irish

By Chris Hewitt

England's leading clubs may not know who they will be playing next season, thanks to the latest rampant outbreak of political squabbling over Europe, but the uncertainty has not stopped London Irish negotiating a bright new future for themselves.

The Exiles, for whom Ulsterman Ian Humphreys is a key player, are on the point of confirming a takeover by a consortium headed by an Irish businessman, Mick Crossan, who made his pile in recycling and waste management.

This seems entirely appropriate, and not simply because of Crossan's links to the island across the water. London Irish, coached by the former England attack strategist Brian Smith, are good at recycling possession but waste an awful lot of scoring opportunities; if they could just find a way of managing that part of their game, they would not be second from bottom in the Premiership.

Smith would argue, with some justification, that a rough run of results since the start of the campaign in September was the inevitable consequence of a haemorrhage of leading players.

But things are looking up. Smith made a startling declaration of intent by signing James O'Connor – the frequently brilliant, occasionally wayward and bitterly frustrated Wallaby back – on a short-term deal, and has recently been focusing on possible recruits in Ireland, with the Ulster prop Tom Court already in the bag.

In addition, Irish are six months away from moving into a £12m training complex close to their existing base in Sunbury.

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