Thursday, 4 September 2014

2014/15 Season Preview: London Welsh

London Welsh
Nickname: The Exiles
Founded: 1885
Years in Top Tier: 1
Last Year: Greene King IPA Championship Champions, British & Irish Cup group stage
Europe: Challenge Cup
Director of Rugby: Justin Burnell

In: Piri Weepu (Auckland Blues), Olly Barkley (Llanelli), Tim Molenaar (Harlequins), Dean Schofield (Worcester),Tristan Roberts (Bristol), Chris Elder (Plymouth Albion), Nick Reynolds (Llanelli), Ricky Reeves (Wasps), Taione Vea (Wasps), Shane Cahill (Cornish Pirates), Jack Gilding (Viadana), Nathan Taylor (Hartpury College), Jimmy Litchfield (Hartpury College), James Sandford (Cornish Pirates), Cameron Goodhue (Worcester), Paul Rowley (Plymouth Albion), Jesse Liston (Blackheath), Josh McNally (Henley), Koree Britton (Gloucester), Darren Waters (Newport), Lachlan McCaffrey (ACT Brumbies), Pablo Henn (Limoges), Eddie Aholelei (Melbourne Rebels), James Down (Cardiff Blues), Ben Cooper (Bedford)
Out: Mitch Lees (Exeter), Tyson Keats (Unknown), Peter Edwards (Llanelli), Sonny Parker (Retirement), Cai Griffiths (Ospreys), Billy Moss (Unknown), Paddy Ryan (Unknown), James Tideswell (Leeds), Joe Ajuwa (Rosslyn Park), Ollie Frost (Unknown), Toby L’Estrange (Unknown), Hudson Tonga’uiha (Unknown), Mike Denbee (Unknown), John Quill (Unknown), Rob Andrew (Unknown), Kevin Davis (Ealing), Ian Nimmo (Unknown)
Ins: 25
Outs: 18

Welsh bounced straight back to the Premiership, beating Bristol 48-28 on aggregate, becoming the 7th team in 9 years to achieve that feat.  Playing again at the Kassam Stadium in Blackbird Leys, Oxford, this time they have not had to go through a damaging off season lawsuit.  Or at least not to gain promotion.

This is not the same Welsh side that graced the Premiership two seasons ago.  Lyn Jones has gone to Newport and been replaced by former Cardiff forwards coach Justin Burnell, his honest appraisals and no nonsense style has already garnered many fans and he is assisted by the ever popular Ollie Smith.

There is no debate that the major Welsh signing has been World Cup winner Piri Weepu.  His health is a worry, reportedly suffering a stroke in March, but his talent is undoubted.  A controlling boot and experienced goal kicker Weepu looks suited to the smash and grab style that Welsh will employ.

Much has been made of the 25 signings made by Welsh but realistically many are simply bodies to fill the LV and Challenge Cup fixtures.  Welsh look thin on quality in crucial places like prop and fly half and won’t be helped by flanker Carl Kirwin missing the opening stages with injury.  Kirwin was a star of the promotion push and will surely be around the Premiership for a long time to come.

Unfortunately I can’t say the same for Welsh.  I don’t see where more than 3 or 4 games this season can be won and don’t think it will be enough to keep them up.

Prediction: 12th

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