NICK Kennedy said preparation was key to London Irish’s return to the Aviva Premiership, writes Richard Ashton.

Exiles beat Yorkshire Carnegie 55-48 last Wednesday night to seal an 84-66 Greene King IPA Championship play-off final victory, putting them back among the elite of English rugby.

Irish’s Director of Rugby had stayed remarkably calm during the build-up to the contest, and told the Chronicle: “How have I stayed calm? I think it’s easy to stay calm when you’ve got great players and great people around you.

“The players had worked so hard that the preparation was done before the play-offs started. We were in a good place, our game was in a good place. Our squad was fit and that’s thanks to the off-field staff as well as the players’ work on the pitch.

“The more you prepare the less nervous you are, so, don’t get me wrong, I was very, very nervous and it was extremely tense, but the key was the preparation.”

Irish were always in control after Ciaran Hearn’s opening-minute try, although Yorkshire kept fighting and trailed just 22-20 at half time.

Kennedy said: “I thought we came out after half time and did very well. We scored two tries and started to slightly relax a little bit, but it was still very tense until the end because Yorkshire are a team who can score from anywhere and they proved that over the two legs.

“The discipline side of things we had two yellows and a red, it was worrying until the end.”

He continued: “It is the players’ hard work that’s testament to this.

“We’ve asked them to do an awful lot this season and they’ve been incredible and I’ve so much respect for them.

“There’s relief and happiness. We made it hard for ourselves, but credit to Yorkshire, they came out swinging and have played some incredible rugby all year.

“We’re just delighted to be back in the Premiership where I believe this club belongs. We’ve rotated the squad all year and all the players fully deserve to be up there celebrating.

“It’s just a shame we couldn’t get them all kitted out. We thought about ‘doing a John Terry’ and putting them out there, but it was voted against.”