Justin Bishop – Irish Rugby International

Originally published for the 2005 Crawley Irish Festival

Justin Bishop has been capped by Ireland 25 times and has played for The Exiles, London Irish RFC, throughout his professional career. The Crawley born rugby union winger talks to us about his experiences playing during the professional era and his memories so far.

You played in the English Youth teams but were then capped by Ireland? Did you always want to play for Ireland?

Like most England born international players, the easiest route to coaching and development is through the RFU but I have always wanted to follow my family. My grandfather played for Ireland and my great uncle and his son each chaired the IRFU. There were strong family ties with Irish rugby so it was only right that I would want to play in green. Playing for London Irish made the transition easier, as London Irish is effectively the fifth provincial rugby team but with my accent, they were always going to call me geezer!

What is your most memorable moment in an Ireland Jersey?

There is absolutely no question. Many people will say it’s their first full international and the same with me, but mine was extra memorable. We were on tour versus South Africa in Pretoria. I had been on the field for 19 minutes and hadn’t touched the ball once! Then, Eric Elwood sent an up-and-under kick into the corner. On the chase, I leapt up and caught the ball in the in-goal area and grounded. My first cap, my first touch, my first try! You can’t beat that – it was perfect. Oh yeah, and before I grounded the ball I did a jig and a somersault! Ha!

Your time at London Irish, what was the best moment?

Easy – winning the Powergen Cup Final in 2000. I’d been at London Irish for six years and seen the club turn professional and really develop into the strong side it is now. Being part of the team that brought the first silverware to Sunbury and being lucky enough to score two tries, that was really special in front of 72,000 people. It was very special. Hopefully this year is our time again, we have the Premiership, the Cup and the European Challenge Cup to fight for.

London Irish play in the Guinness Premiership at Reading’s Madejski Stadium.