Smith return 'kick in shins' for Toby Booth - Richards

Brian Smith and Toby Booth

Former London Irish star Peter Richards believes Brian Smith's return to the club as director of rugby is a "kick in the shins" for head coach Toby Booth.

The Exiles announced Smith's return to the club on Thursday but Richards feels it could lead to the exit of Booth.

"I think if they were top his return would have been met with open arms," Richards told BBC Radio Berkshire.

"But after losing four on the bounce and slipping to ninth to bring someone in above Toby is a kick in the shins."

Smith, 45, previously held the role with the Exiles between 2005 and 2008.

The Australian is widely credited as having been instrumental in laying the foundations for London Irish's most successful years, guiding the club to third place in the Premiership, the final of the European Challenge Cup and a Heineken Cup semi-final against Toulouse.

Following Smith's departure, Booth became head coach and the success continued as the club reached a Premiership final and also qualified for the Heineken Cup tournament in three successive years.

However this season has been difficult with the announcement of the departure of several senior players in the summer co-inciding with a slump in form which has left Heineken Cup qualification unlikely.

"[Brian Smith] did great things at London Irish for a number of years with both Toby Booth and Mike Catt and himself coaching the whole lot," said former England scrum-half Richards.

"But I think there are money issues at London Irish and there are budget cuts. So forking out a fortune on someone like Brian Smith to come in at the top, there has got to be cuts somewhere below that.

"They've got a huge coaching staff at London Irish so I think it is inevitable somewhere along the line, whether it is at the end of the season or during next, that there will be some sort of change below Brian Smith.

"He has been brought in to add stability at the top but it's got to affect what is going on below.

"He is coming in with a long-term goal. He's being manned with the task of providing results for less money and his name was being touted around Australia so his return is a surprise."