London Irish given one-week extension to try and secure their financial future

By Sports Desk May 31, 2023

London Irish have been given a one-week extension in their battle for survival with the Rugby Football Union setting a final deadline of June 6 to prove they have a future.

Irish will be suspended from the Gallagher Premiership unless a takeover has been completed or they can demonstrate they have the funding needed to operate for the entirety of the 2023-24 season.

The May payroll for all staff and players must also be paid in full after it was confirmed that only 50 per cent has been received so far.

The RFU said it had granted the extension until 4pm next Tuesday at the request of Irish employees.

“It’s deeply frustrating for all the staff, players and fans that there have been months of multiple missed deadlines,” RFU Club Financial Viability Working Group chair Paula Carter said.

“We are extremely disappointed that the club has so far only funded 50 per cent of the staff and player wages. However, we have to respect the wishes of those most affected.

“The 4pm deadline on June 6 is final and we have added the stipulation that the club must also fulfil its contractual obligations to its employees by paying the May salaries in full.”

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    Australia-born Bealham made his first meaningful contribution of the competition by coming off the bench to help secure a statement 13-8 victory over defending champions South Africa in round three.

    He had been left out of the matchday 23 for his country’s opener against Romania and was then forced off by a head knock just 10 minutes into a second-half cameo the following week against Tonga.

    Bealham, who showed his quality with some fine performances in this year’s Six Nations Grand Slam triumph, has won most of his 34 Test caps as a replacement and is understudy to first-choice tighthead Tadhg Furlong.

    But the 31-year-old is ready and raring to go when called upon as Andy Farrell’s men attempt to avoid a shock early exit at the hands of the Scots.

    “From a mindset point of view, when I’m on the bench, I don’t care how many minutes I play,” said Bealham.

    “It’s ‘make the minutes count’. I try my best to do that.

    “Personally it was a frustrating start to the campaign but some of that stuff was out of my control.

    “When I got my chance, I just tried to come on and make a positive impact. It was incredible to get that experience.

    “I’m looking forward to the Scotland game.

    “Obviously there’s no team been named yet and it’s just about focusing on what I can control, fixing up things from the South Africa game and then bringing my game on top of that.”

    Three successive Pool B wins have put the world’s top-ranked nation on the cusp of the quarter-finals.

    Yet Ireland’s progression is far from assured going into Saturday evening’s pivotal Paris appointment.

    Bealham turns 32 next Monday and will celebrate his birthday either preparing for a last-eight clash with France, New Zealand or Italy, or reflecting on elimination.

    The Connacht player is eager to extend the “surreal” experience of playing on the world’s biggest stage and continue representing his late Irish grandmother, whom he thinks about when singing Ireland’s Call.

    “I moved over originally when I was 18, 19 years of age having a dream of playing professional rugby and I moved over because the dream seemed a bit harder where I was in Australia,” said Canberra-born Bealham.

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    “I suppose to represent my nana, who I was always close with growing up, representing all them, would I have thought I’d be here a good few years later at a World Cup? It’s pretty surreal.

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    “Our way is the England way. Doing it our way is doing it for each other,” the Northampton back row said.

    “I like that it’s now really obvious what is every team’s DNA and what they’re trying to do. All the top teams have got really different genetics as a team, if you will – a team strategy.

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    “We’re a really strong defensive team. That’s our backbone. We’ve conceded one try in three games. We’re an aerial, kicking team and are very good at getting the ball back.

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    Less than a year ago, Russell’s place at the World Cup appeared in jeopardy when he was left out of the initial squad for the autumn internationals amid tension with Townsend, before being recalled midway through the series in November to hugely impressive effect.

    The coach and talisman also had a well-documented fall-out in early 2020 but they appear to have finally found a genuine sense of harmony since Russell’s recall almost 11 months ago.

    The player reported that their relationship remains in good order amid the intensity of a World Cup campaign.

    “Yes, it’s been good,” he said. “I think that’s all behind us now, thankfully.

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    As well as being the team’s outstanding talent, Russell is also now one of Townsend’s vice-captains.

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    “I think for me to be able to manage the boys and try to keep us on track throughout the week and in the game is going to be really important,” he said.

    “It’s easy to say it’s just another week but it’s not because it’s knockout rugby now for us.

    “There will be a little bit more pressure but I’ve been in this situation before with Scotland where we’ve had knockout games and other big games.”

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    “What we’ve done as a team over the past 12 to 18 months, to get ourselves into this position, it would be so frustrating and disappointing if we don’t manage to get out of the group,” he said.

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