Top target for Exiles
Saxons lock tells Sky Sports that London Irish are "quietly confident" of their chances this season.
By Tony Curtis - Follow me on Twitter: @SkysportsTC
Last Updated: 30/08/12 8:37am
Experienced lock George Skivington insists London Irish are ready to silence their critics this season.
The Exiles have been the busiest of all 12 of the Aviva Premiership clubs in the summer, with wholesale changes on and off the pitch.
Brian Smith returned towards the end of last season and he has now brought in Wales defence coach Shaun Edwards and former Nottingham boss Glenn Delaney as part of his new-look backroom staff - with Mike Catt, Toby Booth and Justin Bishop all moving on.
On the playing front, there has been major surgery to the squad, with some notable departures - including Clarke Dermody, Faan Rautenbach, Nick Kennedy, Bob Casey, Paul Hodgson, Dan Bowden, Shontayne Hape and Delon Armitage.
However Skvington, a proven winner from his time at Wasps, Leicester and the England Saxons, is one of the key signings - with Tomas O'Leary, Scott Lawson, Shane Geraghty, Ian Humphreys (Ulster), Setaimata Sa and Jerry Yanuyanutawa among the fellow new faces.
Such have been the comings and goings at the Madjeski Stadium, though, that the Exiles have been written off in some quarters.
However the 29-year-old claims the club have got their sights firmly set on the play-offs.
"We are not worried about relegation at all," Skivington told Sky Sports. "If anything we are quietly confident of getting into the top four.
"That is our aim for the season and we know that we have the players and coaches in place to make this possible. It is now down to us to make it happen.
"We certainly aren't thinking about being at the bottom of the table, our target is the top.
"It is a fresh start, not just for me but for the club too. There are new coaches, new players and even a new physio team so there has been a great upheaval.
"It is the challenge for the coaches, though, to get everything to come together but a lot of the guys that have come in have been around and know how it is as they are experienced campaigners.
"Although pre-season is two months, that is not a lot of time to gel - but we have the experience.
"We know it is not going to be easy, we are not unrealistic of how it will be this year, but we are moving in the right direction. It will take time to learn everyone's quirks but everything is looking good."
A high turnover of players doesn't always lead to success - as the likes of Newcastle, Leeds and Sale can testify to in recent years - however Skivington believes that the changes could be the best thing that has happened for the Exiles.
"In all honesty, London Irish probably needed a fresh start," he said. "A lot of players had been here a long time and if you stay at one club it is easy to grow stale.
"I think the club needed the new faces, while the players that left probably needed the moves. I am sure the club would have liked to have kept one or two of those that left but sometimes that isn't possible and it can work out for the best.
"It they hadn't moved on then it wouldn't give guys like me the chance to come in and make our mark."
Skivington, who started his career at Saracens before making his name at Wasps, gets his chance at Irish following the retirement of Bob Casey and Nick Kennedy's move to Toulon - with the duo having been the heartbeat of the club's pack.
But Skivington, who has won three Premiership, two Heineken Cup, two Anglo-Welsh and one Churchill Cup titles during a stellar career, has no concerns over replacing two of the club's legends and is determined to make is own mark at the Exiles.
"I've a lot of time for Bob and Nick, they are good guys and I've played against them a lot in the past but this is a new era," said Skivington, who will see Irish open up their campaign at Twickenham against Saracens on Saturday.
"I don't see it as filling anyone's boots, I'm more concerned with putting the Skivington stamp on the club."
Skivington also believes the new-look coaching set up has the potential to pay dividends. Smith is famed for his attacking play and Edwards is arguably the best defence coach in the business while Delaney has earned his spurs at Nottingham.
"Brian's reputation as an attack coach from his previous spell at the club speaks for itself," added Skivington.
"Glenn has come from Nottingham and all the guys I know that have worked with him speak very highly of him and from what I have seen I agree.
"I worked with Shaun for nine years so it will be good to fit into his patterns after a couple of seasons away. He lives and breathes rugby and I am sure he will be in as much as he thinks he needs to be.
"On paper it is a pretty dangerous combination so we will see how it all pans out."