Ansbro seeks send-off for departing London Irish stars
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Joe Ansbro in action against Saracens. Pic by David M Moore.
JOE Ansbro insists London Irish still have plenty to fight for in their final two Aviva Premiership games as Exiles look to wave off a number of players in spectacular fashion.
Seven successive league defeats have seen Irish plummet down the table, with Toby Booth's men currently sitting well outside the tussle for silverware in ninth place.
Their latest loss, a 28-19 reverse to reigning champions Saracens, saw full-back Delon Armitage cross for two tries before announcing he was to follow his brother Steffon and Guy to Toulon next season, signing a two-year deal with the French side.
While Ansbro is new to the Exiles, having joined at the start of this season from Northampton Saints, Armitage has spent 10 years with the club.
And such long service isn't lost on 'new-boy' Ansbro, who believes two wins in their final two games, starting this Saturday at Worcester Warriors, will be a fitting tribute to a great club servant.
"Delon has been a fantastic player for London Irish for a long time and he is going to be a sad loss to this team," he said.
"The Armitage family as a whole has played a lot of rugby for this club and he will be another one who is going to be sorely missed.
"Hopefully though we can win our last two games and finish on a high because he certainly deserves it, and if he keeps scoring tries likes he did against Saracens then that will help."
Joining Delon Armitage on their way out of the Madejski this summer will be Nick Kennedy, Paul Hodgson, Dan Bowden, Bob Casey and Guy Armitage, with Adam Thompstone and Faan Rautenbach also potentially set to leave.
And Ansbro believes the current crop of players owe it to those leaving to put in two top-class displays before the end of the campaign.
"There are plenty of reasons why we why want to finish the season well, and one of them is to do it for the guys who are going this summer," he said.
"We owe it to them to put in performances from now until the end of the campaign, we have all the motivation we need.
"I haven't exactly been counting but I know we aren't on the best of runs at the moment and I think the Saracens game summed our season up, getting into good positions and making strong starts but not seeing the game out.
"Saracens are a good side but we know we could have beaten them and it is about proving that in our last two games, starting with Worcester this weekend."
Despite the exodus of players in the summer, the form of starlets such as centre Jonathan Joseph and Jamie Gibson gives Ansbro hope that Irish can once again be challenging for a final spot next season.
And after a season decimated by injury, the Scottish international missing the entire Six Nations with a back problem, he is convinced the future is also brighter for him in an Exile shirt.
"I have been pleased with how I have played in the games I have featured in but I can't be happy with all the time I have missed with injury," he added.
"But off the field I have really enjoyed being at the club, the atmosphere and the young stars we have coming through the ranks.
"We have a lot of good players coming through and even though we are losing a few names I think we can be competitive again next season.
"We have so many talented youngsters, I'm amazed sometimes at the amount of talent we have, and that is great, it keeps everyone on their toes. For me it is fantastic to have the competition for places, it means I have to work hard all the time to keep my place. "
If you buy a ticket for this year's Aviva Premiership Final on May 26 you will receive a free rugby shirt. Go to www.premiershiprugby.com/freeshirt to buy yours.