HODGSON ACCEPTS PRESSURE

London Irish scrum-half Paul Hodgson has said that playing under pressure is not a problem for them. The Exiles are without a Premiership win since October and have slipped from top of the table to seventh place.

Paul Hodgson told BBC Berkshire: “The pressure that we create is on each other, to make sure that we deliver the best possible performance.

“We’re a squad that is very competitive throughout – in plenty of positions there’s competition.”

Hodgson played down the importance of this weekend’s fixture against Newcastle.

“It’s the next game and the next game’s always the most important one for me,” he said.

ALLINSON HAPPY ABOUT THE COMPETITION

London Irish’s Darren Allison has said that he is happy about the current competition for places. Allinson will wear the number nine jersey on Sunday against Northampton in the LV= Cup – his third start in a row.

He told BBC Berkshire: “Dodge [Paul Hodgson] is one of the best defensive scrum-halves I’ve ever seen.

“He’s been saying it’s really great for him to have a bit of competition. We work hard together, and it’s fantastic to work with international players.”

MAPUSUA FUTURE UNCLEAR

Seilala Mapusua’s London Irish future is still unclear and it will be some time before it is sorted. The Samoa international is yet to sign a new deal at Irish, with clubs in France and Japan reportedly interested.

Mapusua told BBC Berkshire: “It’s weighing up the balance between lifestyle and financial gains – we’ve been really happy here.

“I’ve got some big choices to make but I’m confident that it’ll be the best for me and my family.”

BOOTH CONFIDENT

London Irish head coach Toby Booth has denied that there is a witch hunt at London Irish and says that they will recover soon. The Exiles’ latest setback was a 28-18 loss at Harlequins on Monday.

Booth told BBC Berkshire: “This is not about pointing the finger. I’ll always back my players and defend my players.

“Over the last three or four weeks we’ve made significant strides but those strides aren’t big enough. We have to bring this run to an end.”

LAMB LOOKING FORWARD TO WILKINSON CLASH

Ryan Lamb has said that he is very much looking forward to the clash with Wilkinson. I
Irish host Wilkinson’s Toulon on Sunday in the Heineken Cup, a game Lamb describes as a “massive test”.

He told BBC Berkshire: “Jonny’s a legend of the game and there are no superlatives left to say about him.

“But as much as you respect him as a player and as a person, when you go out onto the pitch you have to worry about your own game.”

He added: “When I was growing up and at school, Jonny was a big influence.

LONDON IRISH LOSE TO NORTHAMPTON

A good London Irish side that defeated by Northampton in a closely fought match. Ryan Lamb struck two early drop-goals before Saints hit back with tries from Jamie Elliott and Paul Diggin.

Jon Clarke then crossed on the stroke of half-time as the Exiles crumbled.

Diggin’s second try after the interval ensured the bonus point for Saints before Chris Hala’ufia went over for Irish and Topsy Ojo also touched down.

This was a hugely impressive performance by the home side, who were without six of their internationals, over their nearest rivals.

And it was built on a devastating first-half effort by the Northampton pack who laid the foundation for an utterly one-sided half of rugby.

Irish started brightly, spraying the ball across the width of the park, as Lamb gave them a six-point lead inside two minutes.

EXILES SHOW INTEREST IN HENSON

London Irish have revealed their interest in signing Gavin Henson. Henson is looking for a move to the London area to be near his children, but Saracens, Wasps and Harlequins have all ruled out recruiting him.

However, Exiles director of rugby Toby Booth said: “Of course we’re interested in good players that become available. “Someone’s reputation doesn’t really matter. The only question is – can you work with them?”

IRISH’S HODGSON IN FOR ENGLAND

England have been forced to make a late change to their squad before departing on Monday for their five-match tour of Australia and New Zealand. It should have no effect on the demand for England Rugby Hospitality Tickets.

Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson, one of nine uncapped players in the party, sustained a hamstring injury as a late replacement against the Barbarians.

His withdrawal sees a call-up for Paul Hodgson of London Irish.

Fly-half Charlie Hodgson and Newcastle prop Jon Golding, who both picked up knocks on Sunday, are fit to travel.

Hodgson, who left the field with blood pouring from a nose injury, and Golding, who was forced off after a blow to the ribs, will be reassessed when the squad arrives in Perth on Tuesday.

England’s first game is against the Australian Barbarians next Tuesday, 8 June, with the first Test against the Wallabies, also in Perth, on Saturday 12 June.

CATT RETIRES FROM IRISH

World Cup winner Mike Catt has announced that he will end his playing career after London Irish’s match against Northampton on Saturday.

The 38-year-old, who played 75 times for England before his international retirement in October 2007, will continue as the club’s attack coach.

“The time is right for me to focus full time on that role,” said Catt.

South African-born Catt moved to London Irish in 2004 after spending 12 years with Bath.

The highlight of Catt’s international career was his appearance in England’s World Cup victory in 2003.

After coming off the bench in England’s 20-17 win over Australia, Catt was part of the team that fell just short of retaining the trophy in a 15-6 final defeat to South Africa four years later.