With London Irish now 7 for 7 and only a couple of points shy of top spot in the Championship times are good at Hazelwood. It seems like every week we’re seeing another player reach a significant milestone too, with Brendan McKibbin clocking up his 50th appearance in green on the weekend. Matt Merritt from @RugbyLI caught up with Brendan for a quick chat on Wednesday evening with the scrum half in his usual laid back and friendly mood.
Of course we couldn’t help but chat about reaching 50 caps but Brendan quickly brushed this aside. He’s not the type of guy who dwells on milestones, in fact in our conversation it quickly becomes clear that despite a Super Rugby title and a good few years in the game he is still very aware he’s being paid to play the game he loves. In fact he tells me if he was working a 9-5 job he’d still be out on the field every weekend throwing the ball around with his mates back in Sydney!
We compare this season to last, of course it’s a lot easier to come in on a Monday after a win at the weekend, but even when he was out of the side a lot at the end of last season McKibbin says motivation was never a factor for him as he just loves what he’s being asked to do. I probe a little deeper and he tells me that he’s really enjoying the way Declan Kidney and Les Kiss are treating the team in training and games, it’s not that it’s any better or worse than what has gone before but that it works for him. Most important seems to be the clear reasons given why players are picked or dropped, so everyone knows what they need to work on.
Another point that Brendan seems particularly enthused about is the energy that the academy players bring to the team, as we discuss the impact both Tom Parton and Ben Loader have had on the team. McKibbin enthuses about Loader’s try at the weekend “He’s a freak, that try was amazing and he has so much speed and power!”
Conversation moves on to the subject of the fans and I’m intrigued to find out just how much attention the players pay to the singing and chanting from the stands. I ask whether Brendan notices or if he is fully focused on the game. “I can’t stay focused for the full 80 minutes, I can’t really concentrate for more than 5 minutes at a time” he jokes. He tells me how important communication is to him and that he likes to be constantly talking to the players around him, but the backing of the fans is always noticeable. On Saturday Brendan tells me he was impressed by the Doncaster fans who were in full voice supporting his team, but whenever Irish got hands on the ball our traveling fans voices would rise up and drown out the locals and the team can always find a little bit extra in the tank when they hear that.
We draw to a close reflecting on the game ahead, it appears at the beginning of the season the Irish side were focussed entirely on the Ealing game and that as good as many of the team have acknowledged Cornish Pirates to be, nobody was really expecting this to be such a key game in the season. It looks to be a special game on the pitch with a lot happening off it too, including a whole host of fright inducing animals and insects on display. I ask whether Brendan will be steering clear of the snakes or spiders but as an Aussie he doesn’t seem too bothered. Apparently not all his countrymen are so ambivalent though. “There was a big spider on the wall in the changing room this week” he says, stifling a laugh. “I scooped it up and showed it to Dave Porecki and he ran out of there, he wasn’t too keen on it. Then I opened up the box that the strength and conditioning guys keep out GPS monitors in and popped it in there.” He can’t confirm what happened next we suspect the S&C lads won’t have taken it too well, though he is keen to stress the spider was unharmed!
Big thanks to Brendan for giving up his time and to Stewart McCullough & all at LI for their ongoing support.