David Paice: London Irish and England hooker prepares for 250th club appearance

By Adam WilliamsBBC Sport
David Paice through time
David Paice signed a two-year contract extension with London Irish on Thursday

Being a one-club man in rugby union is quite a rarity in the modern era of professionalism.

But this weekend David Paice will walk for his 250th competitive career appearance for London Irish against London Welsh, the only club he has played for since he first moved to England from his native Australia.

"It really starts with the culture we have here at the top," he told BBC Sport. "It's a family club and I've loved every minute of playing here."

Capped eight times by England, the 32-year-old hooker this week committed the next two years of his career to The Exiles by signing a contract extensionexternal-link at the Championship club.

"I've made a lot of friends here," he added. "I've also played for a lot of great coaches.

"I pretty much owe my career to Toby Booth, (now first-team coach at Bath) who was academy coach here when I first arrived.

"He brought me through and if it wasn't for him, I don't think I'd be playing my 250th game."

From a childhood in Darwin to pulling pints in a Richmond pub

David Paice lauds his London Irish 'family' ahead of his 250th appearance for the club.

Paice, who moved to England after finishing school in Australia to embark on a gap year, has Booth to thank in more ways than one for launching his professional career.

Nick Kennedy, now director of rugby at London Irish, recalls how Booth plucked Paice from behind the bar at The Orange Tree pub in Richmond.

"Toby stopped him pulling pints and brought him down to training and stuck him in the academy," Kennedy said. "He then went on to win the Under-19s Premiership and hasn't looked back since.

"I've played with Paicey at all levels and he's kind of guy you want by your side.

"He's tough, passionate about Irish and an excellent player. The durability to play 250 games from hooker is really impressive.

"The way he's been playing so far this season indicates he's got many years to come."

Looking for a top-flight return

David Paice during England training in 2006
Paice and London Irish team-mate Topsy Ojo both made their England debuts against New Zealand in 2008

Paice looks set to become Irish's record appearance maker should he stay injury-free in the next two years.

Team-mate Topsy Ojo and now defence coach Declan Danaher are also among those to have joined the London Irish 250 Club.

"I think we're lucky to have both David and Topsy," Danaher said.

"They're great examples to younger players of if you stay at one club, the things you can achieve both on and off the field.

"I don't think there's a more consistent hooker in the English game than Paicey. Every time he pulls that shirt on, he does so with a lot of pride."

Aside from personal milestones, Paice knows the immediate aim is helping the club back to the Premiership at the first attempt with Irish currently top of the table after five wins from the opening five games.

"We've got a lot of experience in the Championship," he said. "Myself and George Skivington coached Ealing Trailfinders for the last couple of years.

"We're under no illusions about how tough a test it would be in the set piece. Pre-season as a forward has probably been one of the hardest I've ever experienced physically.

"What we're doing well this season is we're not taking it easy in any game."