Smith sets sights on Premiership plan with Welsh

First published in London Welsh by

London Welsh rugby player Ashley Smith has vowed not to stop if he achieves his lifelong goal of playing in the Premiership next season – and aims to make himself a regular fixture on the London Welsh teamsheet.
 

Smith, who lives in Coulsdon, is an ex-London Wasps academy player, but only found his feet in the professional game with the Richmond outfit, playing 11 times as the Exiles won the Championship last term.
 

The 21-year-old is a fleet-heeled winger who captained his side at the JP Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby 7s Series final  – where Welsh narrowly failed to make the final – but couldn’t establish himself in the first team last season.
 

He lost out to the hulking frame of Joe Ajuwa and the 22-year-old Nick Scott, but Smith believes he can turn the tables in the Premiership.
 

“Joe and Nick were the main wingers last year, but it’s definitely my aim to get a starting spot this year,” he said.
 

“We haven’t got one of the biggest squads in the Premiership so there’s going to be a lot of rotation with the Amlin Cup, LV= Cup – there’s so many different competitions so there’ll be a lot of opportunities.
 

“This is only my second season at the club after moving from Stourbridge in National One and before that I was playing at Loughborough Students, so it’s a massive step up.
 

“But my number one goal is playing in the Premiership and it’s great that I’ve made it because I’m in the Premiership now and it’s what I’ve focused on throughout my career.
 

“I’m just setting myself higher goals and I need to keep increasing my speed, strength and power, and playing week in, week out will help that.”
 

Having only had two months to prepare for life in the Premiership, London Welsh, on paper, are hot favourites for relegation, but having signed Welsh international stars Gavin Henson and Sonny Parker, Smith believes they stand a good chance of staying up.
 

The pair were all involved in Saturday’s 40-31 pre-season friendly defeat at Bath, which featured tries from Dan George, Jonah Holmes, Paulica Ion   and Smith – plus three conversions from Henson.
 

But aside from the marquee signings, Smith is backing Ajuwa as the club’s secret weapon after the 17-stone wing scored 12 tries in 28 games last season.
 

“I think on the platform we’re on now Joe will be doing well and he could showcase himself because he’s a big athlete,” he added.
 

“Speed, strength, he’s got everything and I think he’s one to look out for.
 

“Obviously we’ve got the guys like Gavin Henson and Sonny Parker pulling the strings so they’re going to help him, and us.”
 

Meanwhile, London Welsh will start their Aviva Premiership campaign with new jersey sponsors.
 

Welsh brewer SA Brain has signed a deal to have Brains Beer on the team’s jersey for three years, starting with the season opener against Leicester Tigers on September 2 at the Kassam Stadium.

 

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