Our friends at #RugbyUnited were invited to attend the Premiership Rugby fixtures launch on Wednesday so Matt Merritt put on his @RugbyLI hat and went along to find out who we’d be facing when in the coming season. While there he managed to grab a quick chat with BT Sport favourite Martin Bayfield and find out his thoughts on London Irish returning to the Prem… Hi Martin, thanks for taking the time out to talk to us! I’d be interested from your point of view what it means to have London Irish back in the Premiership? Passion! The Irish… They’re the true Exiles side, aren’t they! Having played against London Irish so many times, whether I was playing for Met Police, Bedford Blues or Northampton Saints you realise the importance of Irish. You talk to young men come across the sea to earn a living and London Irish was their working men’s club in the years before social media it’s where every Irish bloke would meet and say “I’ll see you at the game!”. It became an essential part of life for these guys. I think having London Irish back is important because they have this huge amount of history. People realise the number of players they’ve developed who have then left so there’s almost a feeling of sympathy, but they just… they belong! In the same way that Bristol did. It’s brutal because Newcastle belong as well but we’ve had to say goodbye to them. This is of course one of the big debates now, there are 13 teams that are Premiership teams and it’s good to have this one back! 20190710_105213Of course Irish have been plying their trade in the Championship where there are plenty of clubs with a rich history – not least your old club Bedford – and some great players. We seem to be seeing more clubs take a punt on Champ players now, Christian Judge at Saracens is a great example of that, so how important do you feel the second tier is for developing players? It is very important, however it’s a weird one. There are some teams within the Championship who don’t want to be promoted. So, it’s a little strange that you have teams who don’t want to come into the Premiership, but I do get that. It’s the eternal debate about promotion and relegation… Eventually the answer will be found and the balance will be achieved. Not every team can be an Exeter and we’ve seen teams yo-yo as Newcastle have done, as Irish have… But I think it’s important to have that down there! If you look at the players in the past who have gone out on loan. Owen Farrell was at Bedford. Dan Cole, Soane Tonga’uiha, Billy Twelvetrees… They were all at Bedford for a period of time, so I think it is important and the Prem clubs make sure that relationship works well. Speaking of talent, London Irish have announced some exciting signings, is there anyone in particular who has caught your eye? I think Naholo coming over is very exciting, but you’ve got Nick Phipps who could be there from the word go, he hasn’t made the Australia squad. Adam Coleman as a second row, they’re paying him a lot of money so let’s see how he performs! Let’s see how the team performs with all of them together! What really got me last season in the Prem was the young players coming through and how good they were, so I want to see someone I don’t know about yet and I want to be buzzing about them come the end of next season. I want to see London Irish having survived, with a new star who we don’t really know right now! Our thanks to Martin for his time. To find out more about #RugbyUnited and to read more about the Fixtures launch give @rugbyunited a follow on twitter!