LONDON Irish fly-half Jacob Atkins is looking to build on his encouraging season when London Irish return to the Gallagher Premiership next season.

The 21-year-old former Forest School pupil produced some eye-catching displays throughout their Greene King IPA Championship-winning campaign, and despite a host of international stars set to join Exiles – including Ireland international fly-half Paddy Jackson – he is hoping to again play a key role on their return to the top flight.

He said: “I’ve been popping into the club to make sure I am ready for pre-season. There are some brilliant names joining and it’s a very exciting time for the club.

“I’ve been watching the final stages of the Premiership and the European competitions and it has just made me more excited to get stuck in. I think everyone at the club, including coaches, players, staff, media team, can’t wait to get going again.”

Atkins made 16 appearances for Exiles last season as understudy to Stephen Myler and latterly Ian Keatley, but he was pleased with his progress throughout the year, adding: “I’m happy to make, what I thought, was a good contribution to the team throughout the season.

“Ultimately, we achieved our goal, which was to get promoted. That is the key thing to take away from the season and now we can start to prepare for life back in the Premiership.”

As he continues to grow into the first-team squad, the Academy graduate – who has spent time on loan at Rams RFC – reflected on his path to the top.

He commented: “I’ve been extremely lucky throughout my career to be given the opportunity to learn from some fantastic players.

“Stephen Myler, Ian Keatley, Greig Tonks, Tommy Bell and James Marshall are all brilliant guys that have been more than happy to help me with my development at the club.

“They’ve all sacrificed their own time to help me develop as a player and as a teammate, so I am very grateful for the chance to learn from those guys.”