Exiles emulate Quins in big-game inspiration

While champions revel in an HQ full house, London Welsh face a 'derby' of their own

They are expecting a bumper crowd for the big game today, the loosely defined "London derby" featuring one of the major success stories of 2012. So much, though, for London Welsh and their meeting with London Wasps, some 65 miles north-west of Twickenham. There is also a derby match that has attracted a sell-out crowd to HQ in south-west London.

The national stadium will be filled to its 82,000 capacity for Big Game 5, the fifth festive-time Premiership fixture transplanted to Twickenham. It will be a fitting stage for Harlequins, who face struggling London Irish. Quins have been the English club team of 2012. They started the year leading the domestic field, won their first Premiership title, and are top of the pile heading into the final weekend of the year.

Still, it has been just as big a year for London Welsh. They finished the RFU Championship season in April only fourth in the second-tier table, 14 points behind Bristol, but proceeded to fight their way through the play-offs, and then through a legal battle, to secure the right to promotion. They have had to move their match-day home from dear old Old Deer Park in Richmond to the Kassam Stadium in Oxford – roughly halfway between the London and Welsh parts – but the Exiles are expecting their biggest crowd of the season there for the visit of Wasps.

The attendance might be only a tenth of Twickenham's throng, but that much – 8,200 or so – would offer further evidence that London Welsh are establishing a foothold among the big boys. On the pitch, under the guidance of the former Ospreys coach and Wales flanker, Lyn Jones, they have exceeded expectations, bagging four victories and 20 points before Christmas. A bonus-point win today would put them level with Wasps as the joint third-highest "London" team – behind Quins and Saracens.

That they have hit the Premiership ground running ahead of the relegation pack is a tribute not just to the nous of Jones but to the off-the-field dynamism of John Taylor. The former Wales and Lions flanker was one of the stars of the London Welsh glory days – playing alongside John Dawes, J P R Williams, Gerald Davies and Mervyn Davies in the early 1970s – and as managing director has helped to make the old dragons roar again.

From New Year's Day, he will be replaced in the driving seat by Tony Copsey, stepping aside into a new role as vice-chairman and lead ambassador. A former Llanelli team-mate of Jones, Copsey has experience of building London clubs off the field, as managing director of Quins for seven years and as CEO of Wasps for two and a half years.

"There is no doubt that London Welsh are on an exciting journey, which also means they face probably one of the biggest challenges in sport," the former Wales lock said. "It is a real privilege and extremely exciting to be asked to help lead that challenge."

Quins, a point ahead of Saracens at start of play, have named the same starting XV that won 18-9 at Northampton last Saturday. London Irish are second from bottom with just 12 points, and are on a six-game losing streak. "We've got ourselves into a bit of a bind," their director of rugby, Brian Smith, said. "We need a big performance somewhere along the road to turn things around."

It is fair to say that Bath need a big performance at Sandy Park today to avoid what would be not just a third successive defeat but their first loss in a competitive fixture against Exeter since a 20-6 reverse in the first round of the John Player Cup at the old County Ground in 1978. Nilled at home against Saracens a week ago, Gary Gold's side have Matt Banahan partnering Kyle Eastmond for the first time in the centres.

Leicester have Geoff Parling back for the Saturday tea-time third v fourth encounter against Gloucester at Welford Road. Brad Barritt, another star of England's autumn win against the All Blacks, returns at inside centre for Saracens in their home-from-home game against Northampton at the Stadium MK in Milton Keynes tomorrow afternoon.

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
tv

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

News
John Moore inspired this Coca Cola Christmas advert
people

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Jamie Oliver’s version of Jollof rice led thousands of people to post angry comments on his website
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film

Review: Mike Leigh's biopic is a rambling, rich character study

Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment
Shelley Duvall stars in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining
film
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes