London Irish could lift their first piece of top-flight silverware since 2002 when they take on Worcester Warriors in the Premiership Rugby Cup tonight.
Back then – against Northampton Saints in the Powergen Cup – it was the likes of Brendan Venter, Paul Sackey and Glenn Delaney. Now it’s centurion Wallaby Rob Simmons, Fijian powerhouse Albert Tuisue and uncapped sensation Henry Arundell.
Arundell lit up the European Challenge Cup quarter-finals this month when he scored a 120m try for Irish against a Toulon side with their own fair share of stardust.
“I guess [when it comes to] guys that I’ve seen from a young age that hit the scene, [Arundell is] like Matt Giteau. He had people thinking about defence in a whole different way,” said 105-cap Simmons.
“Quade Cooper is someone similar, especially in his out-and-out attack.
“At the end of the day you don’t want to get too far in front of yourself. He’s 19 and he’s done it once. To be able to do that consistently from now on is his next challenge.”
London Irish have yo-yoed between the Premiership and Championship in the last six years but have cemented themselves in the top flight in the past two seasons.
Now settled in their new home in Brentford – which they share with the Premier League football club – Irish had a pretty successful year.
A European quarter-final is nothing to be sniffed at, and Les Kiss’s side are also on the cusp of a top eight finish in the league, which would confirm Champions Cup rugby.
But tonight’s final represents a chance to show tangible change in the club with silverware. This cup is often seen as the lowest priority but with little to play for elsewhere this season, both Irish and Worcester have gone all out.
“This club hasn’t enjoyed silverware for 20 years,” Simmons added. “That’s a long time. These competitions have been around for a long time so I don’t think any trophy should be taken light-hearted and nothing’s been won yet.
“We’ll find out tonight how hard it actually is.”
Irish will be without talisman hooker Agustin Creevy – with the Argentine serving a suspension for hair-pulling against Toulon – while Worcester’s matchday 23 sees the return of England centre Ollie Lawrence after a six-month injury layoff.
The Exiles have, though, been able to blood some really exciting players across the season and are visibly building into a cohesive unit.
“[Depth] has probably been a big growth for us this year. On paper we have a very strong team,” added Simmons, who last featured for Australia in 2020.
“That growth has been the competition we’ve created around all these positions. No position is safe, really, which pushes us at the highest level every single day.”
This week marks the last for London Irish this season. Following tonight’s final and Saturday’s match against Bath they’ll be able to put their feet up, thanks to a final-week bye, and nervously watch on to see whether they’ve snuck a Champions Cup spot for next season.
“That’s the beauty of the competition [in England],” Simmons added. “Every game really does count towards something.
“You’ve got to treat each moment as it comes because you don’t know where it’s going to all end up at the end of the season.
“You just have to live in that moment and do the best you can at that time.”