IRISH star Jerry Sexton is relishing the chance to play in front of the biggest crowd of the season as part of the traditional St Patrick’s Party this weekend.
London Irish, who have already sealed their Championship play-off spot, face fifth-placed Cornish Pirates at Madejski Stadium on Saturday in the club’s designated celebratory game with over 10,000 fans expected.
Despite struggles in the Premiership over recent years, eventually leading to relegation last season, the Exiles tend to raise their game for the St Patrick’s game, winning each of the last two.
And Sexton is keen to repay the fans with another victory this weekend.
“I played last year in the St Patrick’s game against Gloucester and now again this year,” he told The Wokingham Paper.
“I think there’s over 10,000 people coming in for the game so it will make for a really good atmosphere.
“It’s always good outside the ground and after the game, they always put on a really good show and I’d really recommend people coming in, it’s just a great day.”
He added: “We have real loyal fans who follow us everywhere.
“They follow us down to Cornwall, they follow us up to Leeds. They’re really good people and
hopefully we can repay them so they can start seeing Premiership rugby again next year.”
Nick Kennedy’s charges go into this weekend’s game with a perfect record of 16 wins from 16 in the league.
And while Sexton admits it would be nice to win the final four games before the play-offs, he insists that is not the main focus.
“We’re not a results-driven team,” he said.
“We just want to perform well every week and then hopefully the results can look after themselves.
“Like Nick (Kennedy) has said to us, if we lose the next two games but perform well, that’s what we want – to perform well and stick to our values.”
He added: “We know the Championship is a very tough league and there’s a lot of very good teams and players here.
“Our goal was never to win every game, we never even talked about it.
“Our goal was first of all to start well and then we were hoping performances would get us results. If we can build slowly, hopefully get the play-off spot, win the semi-final and then hopefully we can win the final.
“We never thought we’d win every game, but it’s great that we have.”
Cornish Pirates present a tough challenge having come close to a result on each of the three occasions the two sides have met this season.
And with a dominant win over second-placed Yorkshire Carnegie last month, Sexton has been impressed by the play-off-chasing side.
“We’ve played them three times this year and it’s always been tough,” he said.
“They’re probably one of the best coached teams in the league and the players have a very good work-rate and work ethic.
“That really shows in their performances. They won in Leeds a couple of weeks ago which we took a look at and they seem like a very good team.
“I think they’ll physically match us and hopefully we have enough class to come through.”
And the team has been announced for tomorrow’s clash with Exiles legend Topsy Ojo returning to the line-up on the wing.
Ben Ransom, Brendan McKibbin, Luke Narraway, Senitiki Nayalo and Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi round off the changes from the last league outing against Yorkshire Carnegie.
London Irish team v Cornish Pirates: Ransom, Lewington, Tikoirotuma, Mulchrone, Ojo, Marshall, McKibbin, Hobbs-Awoyemi, Paice (c), Franks, Robson, De Chaves, Narraway, Cowan, Nayalo.
Reps: Porecki, Elrington, Hoskins, McNally, Sexton, Steele, Atkins.
Saturday is London Irish’s biggest game of the season with entertainment for all the family, the RBS 6 Nations last day on big screens and the traditional Irish welcome from 11am to 7pm. Tickets are on sale from 0118 968 1016 or www.lidirect.co.uk.