LONDON Irish centre Tom Stephenson is looking forward to the new Gallagher Premiership season as he continues his rehabilitation from a leg injury suffered at the end of the season.

The 25-year-old went down in the final home game of the Greene King IPA Championship-winning season against Ealing Trailfinders, but is fully focused on getting back to full fitness.

He said: “I can’t wait for the new season, being back in the Gallagher Premiership is very exciting. Firstly, I want to get back to full fitness, then push on with the boys in the Premiership.

“Watching the sessions on the pitch, the level of intensity just stands out. The squad have raised the standards from last year, so it’s looking promising so far.

“There is a spring in everyone’s step, and I think that is credit to the coaches and backroom staff. The senior players have stepped up as leaders and it feels like a new atmosphere around the place.

“There is a sense of anticipation and excitement because we are back in the Premiership. We have made some new signings, working hard in pre-season and coming together as a squad. Hopefully this continues throughout the season.”

Reflecting on his recovery, he added: “When the boys had their five weeks off, because of my injury, I was in with the physios, but it feels well worth doing now.

“I did manage to get a week off in July, got away with the family on a nice little trip. Apart from that, I’ve been at Hazelwood working on my recovery. Hopefully it isn’t too long until I can be back out there.”

Stephenson also praised the support he has received since the injury, commenting: “Everyone at the club has been great. The night after the injury happened, I stayed at head of medical services Brian O’Leary’s house because he wanted to make sure I was comfortable. All the physios have been awesome to me, working so hard on my rehab to get me back on the pitch.

“Declan Kidney has been brilliant with me as well. If I needed anything, I can always go to him and he will support me in whatever way he can.

“When you’re in a hospital bed, thinking it’s all doom and gloom, and you receive so many messages of support, it means so much. To think that so many people are thinking of you at that time is overwhelming. Thank you so much to all the London Irish supporters and everyone else that sent messages of support to me, it means a lot.”