London Irish (Rugby Team)

London Irish Football Club formed in 1898. The club are nicknamed 'The Exiles', referring to the club's founders who were living away from their home in Ireland. They are a rugby union club based in Sunbury and compete in the top division of English rugby union.

The club was founded by a group of notable Irishmen living in London. No less than six MPs were amongst its founding members. The club provided a meeting point for Irishmen living away from home and fostered a common Irish national identity, regardless of political or religious beliefs.

Success came to London Irish not long after their foundation when Louis Magee played for the club. Magee represented Ireland 27 times from 1895-1904 and attracted a great deal of new players to the club.

London Irish did not have a permanent ground in the early years of their existence. They first played in Herne Hill but in subsequent years moved between various grounds in London. It was only in 1931 that they were able to take up permanent residence at Manor Lane in Sunbury-on-Thames.

A decade after securing their home at Sunbury war broke out in Europe. The club suffered significant losses; nine members of the first team from the 1938-39 season were killed in the conflict. Following the Second World War they were forced to play some of their matches at Blackheath because the Sunbury Ground had been severely affected by war time requisitioning, when it was used to grow vegetables.

After a period of success in the late 1950s, the club decided to move back to Sunbury. With their own ground, increasing ticket sales saw club profits rise.

London Irish turned professional in 1999 and merged with London Scottish and Richmond to form an umbrella company supporting the professional team. An amateur club also formed at this time, London Irish Amateur RFC, which remains in Sunbury whilst the professional team now plays in Reading.


Alternate Names

  • The Exiles

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