Exiles aim for big-name signing

Burnley and Pendle Citizen: Brian Smith is confident London Irish can attract big names Brian Smith is confident London Irish can attract big names

London Irish want to sign an experienced Ireland international as they seek to re-establish links to the Celtic nation.

The Exiles, who sit second from bottom in the Aviva Premiership, will benefit from a cash injection in the wake of a takeover by a consortium of London-based Irish businessmen.

It is hoped their squad will comprise of one third academy graduates, one third Irishmen or players of Irish descent and one third world-class signings.

Director of rugby Brian Smith believes the Exiles could prove the right fit for an Ireland Test star seeking a change of scenery.

"It is a very interesting dynamic in Ireland because their model is to centrally contract their big players and that is the right thing," Smith said.

"We would love to get our hands on a frontline Irish international, but clearly we want to work with the unions.

"Every year we play over in Munster and when we have problems with injuries, I'm on the phone to the guys at Leinster, Ulster and Munster asking can we loan or trade players.

"We have got a good relationship there and it's important that we go about things the right way.

"We are not trying to drag the Irish captain out of a central contract.

"If it fits for a player who has missed the boat or someone who wants a life change then we can attract those kinds of guys. It just needs to be the right fit.

"Sometimes we could end up with three and other times we might not sign a current Irish international.

"But there is an appetite to say we are what we say we are and we need to be representative of the Irish community."

Among Ireland's players out of contract at the end of the season are British and Irish Lions forwards Jamie Heaslip, Paul O'Connell and Sean O'Brien.

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