Focus on defence pays dividends for London IrishBy Alan Manicom
February 15, 2013
Brian Smith insists that the turnaround in London Irish’s fortunes this year is down to the club focusing on its defence.
When Shaun Edwards quit as defence coach in December, Smith announced he would be taking on the extra responsibility.
But Exiles’ director of rugby declined to take full credit for the improvement, which has seen his side win five of their last six games in all competitions.
As he prepared for tomorrow’s trip to Bath in the Aviva Premiership (2.15pm kick-off), Smith said: “Shaun did a terrific job while he was here, but it was a part-time role.
“We have made defence a priority over attack and we do it every day.
“My job is head coach and DoR so I am going to be hands on.
“But this is a team effort. No one person can throw their hand up and say I am the genius behind the defence.
“It’s been 100-per-cent driven by the team and enforced by the coaches. We analyse it together. We coach together.”
He added: “We had to have a good hard look at ourselves at Christmas time.
“If you are conceding one try per game you only have to score two tries to win. But if you are conceding two tries, you have to score three.
“And if you are conceding three tries it is game over. You don’t win those games.
“So we have turned our season around because we have turned our defence around.
“I don’t mean that flippantly. We are conceding fewer penalties at scrum time and we are defending our try line much better than we were earlier in the season.
“We have been a lot more consistent off the back of our improved defence.”
Despite winning their last two Premiership games, Irish are just five points clear of the bottom-of-the-table relegation spot.
And Exiles’ boss says he would love to do the double tomorrow over his predecessor Toby Booth and Irish’s former forwards coach Neal Hatley, who both switched to Bath last summer.
Smith said: “You always like to beat your mates, whether it’s at cards or riding pushbikes.
“I spoke to Toby about two weeks ago when he came to our game against Worcester (a 46-24 win in the LV= Cup).
“We sat down and had a meal after the game. He and Hats are doing a good job. Bath are progressing as a team.
“They are similar to us in that there has been a lot of change there and they seem to be getting stronger.”
Bath have won their last five games in all competitions and Smith continued: “Like us there is a culture of winning at the moment.”
Irish won 29-22 when the sides met at Madejski Stadium in the league last September, but have only once tasted success at The Rec in the last seven years.
Smith, though, is taking heart from last Saturday’s 29-16 home win over Saracens.
He insists: “There is no reason why we can’t win at The Rec, but saying it and doing it are two different things.
“We have to front up like we did at the weekend. If we do that and play with the same intensity, I can see it being a very similar contest to last Saturday because Bath kick the ball a lot.
“They kick the ball more than any team in the competition – and that is saying something because Sarries kicked the hide off it.
“We are ready for their tactics, though, and if we execute our own well there will be no problems.”