NICK Kennedy believes the current London Irish squad is one of the strongest he has been a part of since joining the club a decade ago.

The former Marlow lock has been with Exiles for his entire professional career and celebrated his 200th appearance in the victory against Newcastle Falcons last weekend.

His accolades during his time at the club include winning the Young Player of the Season award in his second season and helping Exiles finish as runners-up in both the Premiership and the European Challenge Cup.

This year, however, Kennedy has his sights on further glory with a team that appears to be growing in stature - as well as size - every week.

"I think this is one of the strongest squads I have seen at the club in my time," Kennedy told the Chronicle. "You look at the youngsters we have got, who have been performing so well, and then you throw the international players into the mix and that can only be a good thing.

"It's a big squad, no doubt about it - there's nearly not enough chairs in the meeting room - but it's fantastic for the club and things are very exciting for us right now."

At the age of 30, Kennedy is one of the more experienced players in a squad that is brimming with youthful talent and exuberance.

Much of that talent, such as Steven Shingler, Alex Gray and Shontayne Hape, has been brought in by head coach Toby Booth over the summer, and Kennedy believes the future is looking bright.

"It was the first time that I met Shontayne at the weekend so it was great to play alongside him, and Delon [Armitage] was on fire in his first game back, he was just brilliant," he commented.

"It was great to have them both in the side as well and then to look around and see youngsters like Jamie Gibson and Ross Samson also getting a run-out."

Looking back to the start of his Irish career, Kennedy admits that the first day he pulled on the green jersey was probably his most memorable at the club.

"I really enjoyed my first game and I think that would be the best moment of the last 10 years. I have always supported London Irish since I was a kid so to play for them was amazing and the match was against Newcastle Falcons and Jonny Wilkinson, who is a rugby legend," he said.

"I've made some life-long friends at this club, the coaches here have been absolutely fantastic, they've helped me become the player I am and helped me achieve my goals."

Kennedy is expected to further his growing reputation as an Irish legend when Exiles return to Premiership action to take on Bath at the Madejski this Saturday (2.30pm).

The lock, however, knows that the Somerset club will potentially provide the sternest test yet for Exiles as they welcome back a host of players from the World Cup including Francois Louw, Lee Mears and Lewis Moody.

"It's going to be a very tough battle, they've got a big pack, are a physical side and they'll certainly be stronger with the players that they have back from New Zealand," Kennedy said.

"A lot of teams now have their players back from international duty and things will start to get a lot tougher and a lot more competitive in the league for sure."