Lovejoy Chawatama relishing Steven Kitshoff test as London Irish look to rescue Champions Cup campaign

Lovejoy Chawatama is hoping to get the better of a heavyweight winner  (Getty Images)
Lovejoy Chawatama is hoping to get the better of a heavyweight winner (Getty Images)

The last place to look for false modesty is slap-bang in the middle of a top-level scrum.

So when Lovejoy Chawatama packs down against World Cup-winner Steven Kitshoff, there will be no shying away from the challenge.

London Irish’s Zimbabwe-born tighthead expects a major tussle with 73-cap Springboks loosehead Kitshoff when the Exiles host the Stormers in Sunday’s Champions Cup clash in Brentford.

The 30-year-old insists there is no time to fret about the calibre of his opposite number though, especially when he knows he has to lead Irish’s set-piece charge.

“You dream of taking on players like this, so it’s extremely exciting and an amazing opportunity,” said Chawatama.

“But you have to go in there with confidence. If you don’t go in there with that confidence who’s going to give it to you?

“Not even in an arrogant way or anything, I believe I’m the best in what I do, and when I’m going onto the pitch it doesn’t matter whether I’m facing a 100-cap Test prop, I believe in my own ability.

“And they have to try and work out what I’m going to do, because they don’t know who I am, and that’s fine, and they have to work out what I’m doing.

“You have to believe in your own ability. I would not be where I am now if I didn’t have that confidence to believe in my own ability.

“No one thought I’d be playing at this level when I was 15, I wasn’t in an academy or anything.

“But I knew I would get there. So as a tighthead prop you have to have that confidence in your own ability, because you’re the cornerstone of that scrum.

“When it comes to scrum time, that’s my time, everyone is with me. They have to come with me, and I have to make that happen.”

Irish have returned to form in the Premiership, toppling Bath and Saracens across a fine festive period.

Irish handed Saracens their first defeat of the Premiership season in January (Getty Images)
Irish handed Saracens their first defeat of the Premiership season in January (Getty Images)

Declan Kidney’s men opened their Champions Cup account with two defeats on the spin, but have raised their level significantly since.

And Chawatama insisted the Exiles are still targeting qualifying for the knockout stages, even though wins against the Stormers and in Montpellier next weekend will probably be required to squeeze through.

“This is a very, very big opportunity for the club. We want to impose ourselves on the competition and show what we can do as London Irish,” said Chawatama.

“And I think we’ve got the talent and the gameplan to do that.

“I can tell you now the chats we’ve had, we’re going for this, we want to qualify for the knockout stages. The last 16, that’s the target, nothing less.

“So we’re going to go for it and there’s no better way to do that than starting at home and then going over to Montpellier.”

London Irish: B Loader, L Cinti, L Morisi, B Van Rensburg, O Hassell-Collins, R Jennings, B White, W Goodrick-Clarke, M Willemse, L Chawatama, A Ratuniyarawa, R Simmons, JM Gonzalez, T Pearson, M Rogerson (capt).

Replacements: I Ruiz, D Fischetti, C Parker, C Munga, J Basham, C Cunningham-South, J Powell, M Dykes.

• Log onto https://www.eticketing.co.uk/londonirish to buy tickets for London Irish’s Champions Cup clash with the Stormers at the Gtech Community Stadium on Sunday, kick-off 1pm.