Nick Kennedy: London Irish director of rugby ready for Championship challenge

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'Rebuilding starts now' says Irish boss

New London Irish director of rugby Nick Kennedy says the club and players are "under no illusions" as they plot an immediate return to the Premiership.

Irish were relegated last season after a campaign which saw just four wins.

"It was a terrible year for us, there's no hiding behind that," Kennedy told BBC Sport. "The rebuilding starts now, we've got a huge challenge next year."

Former Exiles and England lock Kennedy will work under new technical director Brendan Venter in the coming season.

Kennedy's appointment follows the departure of Tom Coventry as head coach in June as Irish dropped out of English rugby union's top flight for the first time since 1994.

"There's no point rolling out a load of excuses now," the 34-year-old added. "Ultimately, we weren't good enough and we're taking our medicine now.

"We were the worst team in the Premiership and now we're a Championship team."

London Irish director of rugby Nick Kennedy
Nick Kennedy made more than 200 appearances as a London Irish player

Kennedy played seven times for England in a career which went on to include a European Cup win with Toulon and a season at Harlequins.

During his time at the Madejski Stadium, he formed a formidable second-row partnership with the club's now chief executive Bob Casey and made his debut alongside Venter.

Kennedy said his working relationship with the former South Africa centre and London Irish player-coach will see the pair speak on the phone daily.

Venter is expected to travel over from South Africa once a month to assist Kennedy, as well as fellow coaches and former Irish players Declan Danaher, Paul Hodgson and George Skivington.

"The Championship is a tough league," Kennedy added. "I've watched a lot of it and we're going to have to be on our mettle every single game.

"There will be lots of teams down there that will have the same goal and we're desperate to be playing Premiership rugby again."