London Irish: Nick Kennedy pays tribute to squad effort in Championship promotion

London Irish lift Championship trophy
London Irish lost just one game in the Championship campaign

London Irish boss Nick Kennedy admitted their promotion back to the Premiership was a true squad effort.

Irish secured an immediate return to the top flight after beating Yorkshire Carnegie 84-66 on aggregate in an eventful Championship play-off final.

"It is the players' hard work that's testament to this," director of rugby Kennedy told BBC Sport.

"We've asked them to do an awful lot this season and they've been incredible and I've so much respect for them."

Irish took an 11-point lead into the second leg of the final at the Madejski Stadium on Wednesday.

And the two sides traded 12 tries before their 55-48 second leg victory guaranteed promotion.

"There's relief and happiness," Kennedy admitted. "We made it hard for ourselves, but credit to Yorkshire, they came out swinging and have played some incredible rugby all year.

"We're just delighted to be back in the Premiership where I believe this club belongs. We've rotated the squad all year and all the players fully deserve to be up there celebrating.

"It's just a shame we couldn't get them all kitted out. We thought about 'doing a John Terry' and putting them out there, but it was voted against."

Premiership preparations already under way

Alex Lewington and Brendan McKibbin
Alex Lewington and Brendan McKibbin both scored two tries in Irish's 55-48 second leg win

Kennedy was promoted from the club's academy to lead Irish's coaching team at the start of the season following Premiership relegation last May and the departure of head coach Tom Coventry.

Irish lost just once in the regular season as they secured top spot by March, but had to negotiate the Championship play-offs before confirming their promotion.

There are more than three months before the new Premiership season, but Kennedy revealed the club has already been busy recruiting.

"We've done the majority of our signings," he said. "We've signed people that want to come to this club and believe in what we're doing.

"If we'd lost this tie tonight, they were turning up anyway and we'd have kept fighting and fighting to put this club back on the top."

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