MAN-OF-THE-MATCH Lovejoy Chawatama believes competition for places is proving key to London Irish's successful run after they reached the last four of the RFU Championship Cup with a 27-17 home win against Coventry, writes Richard Ashton.

The 26-year-old put in an all-action display as he helped a much-changed side seal a semi-final clash with Yorkshire Carnegie, carrying well and making several big tackles around the Madejski Stadium turf.

And the powerful prop told the Chronicle it was hard work off the field which had led to his impressive outing.

He commented: "Credit to the coaches for backing me to play for 80 minutes and especially Robbie (Palmer, head of strength and conditioning), the work he's been doing with me when I've not been playing games, I've been working hard.

"I'm fighting trying to get in the team, but obviously we've got really good props out there. We keep pushing each other in training and I've just got to keep working hard to try and knock on the door to keep getting opportunities.

"We've got very good forwards in the squad and it's really hard to get in that (Championship) matchday 22, but when you get a chance you have to take the opportunity."

He continued: "The reason we get better as a team is because of what we do in training, when a guy's not playing at the weekend, he's pushing the ones who are. That's what Declan (Kidney, director of rugby), Les (Kiss, head coach) and Skivs (George Skivington, forwards coach) are trying to build at the club.

"What they're building is that whole team mentality and the atmosphere at the club is awesome. We're all aspiring to keep getting better as players and are working hard to push on."

Coventry put up a stern test against Exiles on Sunday, taking the lead in the seventh minute courtesy of an Andy Bulumakau, but Chawatama was pleased with the hosts' response.

He commented: "Rugby's like that sometimes, things can happen, but we've got senior boys and leaders and we just had to calm down a bit and keep sticking to what we were doing.

"We knew what Coventry were going to break to us. They have a big, heavy pack and always like to play with quick ball, so we had to work hard on our defence.

"I thought we worked hard as a team and it was good, our defence was awesome."

Despite Irish being two wins from silverware and also nine points clear at the top of the league, Chawatama issued a note of caution as they aim for a double.

He concluded: "We want to win everything, but we know it's not going to be easy.

"Every game we have to turn up as a team and that's what we're doing in the league and the cup.

"We have to keep our heads down and concentrate on ourselves. We're not thinking that far ahead, we're just taking each game as it comes because there are no easy games."