Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Smith eager to stem talent drain

London Irish must never again allow a lack of ambition to spark a mass exodus of top young talent, according to boss Brian Smith.

Powerday boss Mick Crossan helped secured Irish's long-term future last month, the waste management company chief leading a board takeover backed by fresh investment.

Rugby director Smith believes that shift has quickly underpinned new long-term deals for mainstays like George Skivington and Shane Geraghty.

Last summer homegrown quartet Matt Garvey, David Sisi, Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson joined former coaches Toby Booth and Neal Hatley in moving to Bath.

Former England attack coach Smith admits Irish can ill afford any such repeat in future.

England wing Marland Yarde is out of contract in the summer, and Irish are already fighting hard to keep their coveted academy graduate with The Exiles.

"You would like to think those things wouldn't happen again," Smith told Press Association Sport.

"I think we've learned a lot from that previous experience, and I would like to think that we're a lot more stable and secure a club now.

"The reason people leave a club, whether as a coach or a player, if they have a choice it's probably because they question the ambition of the club.

"You see that in football all the time, and rugby players observe that behaviour because as the biggest professional game here football certainly carries influence.

"The old-fashioned rugby values, things like loyalty, if we're not careful those concepts, of a player staying his whole career at one club, they will disappear.

"Topsy Ojo has already been at this club for 10 years, and he's only 28.

"It would be a shame to see that go, because supporters and most coaches in the game, that's how they want to operate when involved in rugby.

"It would be nice to think there are still those youngsters who appreciate the concept of loyalty.

"We have a lot of talent coming through our academy again, and the big challenge for us as a club is to harness it and develop it, and make sure we hold onto it.

"That's critical going forward."

Geraghty signed a three-year deal this week that Smith hopes will see the former England fly-half complete his career at the club.

Prop Halani Aulika, scrum-half Darren Allinson and England Under-18s wing Tom Fowlie also completed three-year terms.

Smith believes Irish must build their future on exciting youngsters like highly-rated Fowlie, but also retain experienced operators like Geraghty.

The 27-year-old academy graduate left Irish in 2009 for spells at Northampton and Brive.

A change of emphasis after Smith's 2008 England switch led to Geraghty's Northampton move a year later.

When Smith returned to Irish in 2012, so did Geraghty.

Now Irish's Australian boss believes his "world-class" fly-half is once again settled and thriving.

Smith said: "All coaches have a different view on players, and my view on Shane Geraghty, right from the time when he came through our academy, was that he is a world-class player.

"That view wasn't shared by the previous coaching crew and that's why Shane decided to move on.

"When I came back to the club he was one of the first guys I got in contact with and I think Shane can play out the rest of his career here at London Irish.

"I don't think it's a bad thing that he went and experienced Northampton and Brive, because I think you are the sum total of your experiences.

"He will have learned from that.

"But he's a class act, an outstanding player, the kind every team in the Premiership needs.

"Shane is very comfortable here, he's appreciated here, and I think he's accepted for what he is as a player and as a person."

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph