Feature Interview | Alex Lewington
A clash between Saracens and London Irish is always a special occasion for Alex Lewington.
The electric 30-year-old wing reached notable milestones in a five-year stint at Irish by hitting the landmarks of 50 tries and 100 appearances for his former club.
It rightly earned him a place among the list of most-respected men to have played for Irish, but Lewington is now Saracens through and through. He joined the men in black in the summer of 2018 and when he did so, he arrived with a reputation as a superb, try-scoring finisher.
He has certainly lived up to that tag in his time at StoneX Stadium so far, excelling both in the Championship and Gallagher Premiership to become a hugely consistent performer for director of rugby Mark McCall. Lewington scored twice on his Sarries debut at Newcastle Falcons before adding a further six tries in his opening eight matches for the club. That showed just how good he is.
A former defender for Notts County’s academy, Lewington began his career at Leicester Tigers and made several appearances in the LV= Cup. He moved on to his hometown club Nottingham and his success with the Championship outfit led to London Irish moving for him in 2013.
The ex-England Saxon appeared over 100 times for Irish and on his return from injury in the 2016/17 campaign he scored 10 tries in as many games before dotting down twice in the Championship play-off final as Irish returned to the top-flight. In his debut season at Saracens, Lewington notched 11 tries in 28 matches and he has continued that highly impressive record ever since.
So, what chance of meeting a few old friends at StoneX in the recent match?
“I suppose it’s always a special game for me against Irish even though I haven’t played for them for quite some time,” said Lewington. “It has been quite a while now, but I learned a lot from my time there and I’m very grateful to the club for what they gave me.
“I joined the club when I was 21 and left when I was 26 so it was a time in my life when I was growing up both on and off the field. The club really helped me in that regard.
“There aren’t really any players at Irish now who were in the senior squad when I was there, but what is nice is to see the progression of guys like Ben Loader and Ollie Hassell-Collins.
“They were young players coming through the academy when I was at Irish and now, they are established Gallagher Premiership performers. When I see guys like that coming through it makes me feel a bit experienced, shall we say. I prefer to use the word experienced than old!”
McCall and the club will be without their England international contingent for November while they are on Test duty with Eddie Jones’ squad. It is at times like these that consistent, experienced performers like Lewington come into their own.
“We have had some great results recently even though we know there have been areas in each game so far this season that we can improve on,” he said.
“We are still happy with where we are and each game has been very different. We had a good win at Bristol in round one and Leicester was a monsoon where we had to dig in.
“We didn’t get the result there, but the boys certainly turned up at Bath. That game showed how good we can be and it was also great to have our full squad available for that one.
“We are really happy with where we are, but we are not getting carried away. What is good is we are finding different ways to win and it’s exciting to see where we can go from here.”
Lewington has been in fine form this term. He was a key figure for Saracens as they won last season’s Championship title and has experience of English rugby’s second tier with two of his former clubs. “Technically, I was relegated twice with Irish,” Lewington laughed.
“My role now in this Saracens squad – especially when the England lads are away – is as one of the more experienced players. I like to put that experience to good use.
“At times like this I like to think I step forward, but it’s not just me. Jackson Wray and Alex Goode are also key figures and it’s about us driving standards for the younger lads to look at and learn from.
“When I was at Irish, we were a bit of a yo-yo club in terms of bouncing up and down from the Championship to the Premiership. I’ve watched the progression the club has made from afar and it’s been great to see. It looks like they are a very stable club now and they have a fantastic new stadium, but my focus is entirely on Saracens. I’ve been very happy with my form this season."