London Irish’s season finished in disappointment with defeats in the Premiership Rugby Cup final to Worcester and in their final match of the campaign at Bath, but they have got to work tying down a future of a series of important players.
Among them is Will Goodrick-Clarke, whose new contract was announced on Monday. Prop Goodrick-Clarke, 26, is one of a number of Exiles youngsters who have had a taste of Eddie Jones’ England camps this year, with Henry Arundell, Will Joseph and Tom Pearson called up to the latest one in Richmond this week.
Goodrick-Clarke joined the club from Richmond ahead of the 2019/20 season and has since established himself as an important member of the squad.
“The club gave me my first professional gig after being at university and playing in the Championship so it means a lot to me, they gave me my first chance in the Premiership,” he says.
“I am learning a lot off the players and the coaches around me. I think the club is moving in the right direction. If you see where the club was when I joined, just out of the Championship, to where we are now, really settled in Brentford with crowds improving every game, the aspirations are there, the way we play is there, and I have really enjoyed it.”
Goodrick-Clarke says the blend of players at Irish, from 100-cap internationals like Agustin Creevy and Nick Phipps to exciting English youngsters like Arundell and Ollie Hassell-Collins.
“It takes some time for a squad to settle, and we have had a good core of players now for the last three years I’ve been here,” he said. “We’ve added to it, we are a tight group here.
“We’ve had a collection of guys who have won hundreds of international caps all over the world, seen it all, and that experience has helped the young lads so much.
“My development is 50-50 between coaches and players. Creevy has been massive as a front rower in my development around the scrum. Adam Coleman is a great defensive player, he writes people off, and that’s what I want to improve on. Same with Rob Simmons. Taking bits of their game and trying to absorb all the information I can.
“That’s helped the young academy guys come through. They have performed. They are not here just because they are academy players, they are in the 23 because they have performed. We’ve seen that with the England call-ups.”
Irish have earned a reputation as the most exciting team in the Premiership, with seven draws in all competitions this season.
“I would prefer it if we just won that game!” Jokes Goodrick-Clarke. “That mentality we have is that we will play for the whole 80 minutes, no matter the scoreline. Our rugby, and how we play, it’s an expansive way to play, an attacking form of rugby, which is great to see. The supporters like it, but they tell me we are going to give them a heart attack!
“We will not give up whatever the scoreline. That has got us back into games with draws and wins that seemed unlikely. It’s about cutting out errors and making them into more comfortable wins.”
Goodrick-Clarke is looking to build on what he learnt in England camp earlier this year, and still harbours hopes of making the tour of Australia this summer.
“For me personally it was a great experience,” he says. "It was a bit of an eye-opener on what that level of rugby requires. It’s the pace and physicality, but also the level training is at. I’ve tried to carry that over since coming back. To train with that intensity you have to play with intensity.”