LONDON IRISH hooker Brian Blaney says the club must consider returning to London and signing more Irish players in order to connect with the rapidly expanding Irish community in the city.
The Exiles have been based at the Madejski Stadium in Reading since 2000 and have committed to playing their home games at the venue until 2026.
Blaney and Bob Casey are currently the only two Irish players in Toby Booth’s first-team squad. However, Casey has opted to retire this summer and Blaney’s contract expires at the end of the season.
Speaking to The Irish Post, Blaney said: “Looking at it from the outside, there should be a bigger Irish contingent in the squad. That’s what London Irish is about.
“But I don’t know much about the politics and what the actual ins-and-outs are, whether it’s to do with the pay structure or something like that. I think the club might be subsidised if they pick an English player so financially it’s in their interests to do that, which is fair enough.
“But when you look at the players back home, I’m sure they could pick up a few good quality Irish players to come over. And lads would love to come over to London too.”
The 29-year-old Dublin native, who joined London Irish in 2010, added: “It’s just a pity they don’t have a pitch in London. From speaking to friends who live in London, they just won’t go to Reading because it’s too far away.
“It’s two hours to get out there from and another two hours back, so it’s your whole day. If they were in somewhere like Loftus Road it would be sold out every week, I can guarantee you that.
“If I was involved as a director I would be pushing long-term to get a club in London – in Fulham, or Tottenham or somewhere locally in London. Irish people are coming over in their thousands. I have so many friends over here who would love to go to games but it’s just too far away.”