Smith not looking over his shoulder

Brian Smith insists London Irish must take charge of their own Aviva Premiership destiny - and not rely on any upheaval at Sale Sharks to save them from relegation.

The Exiles were plunged deeper into the mire after losing 26-15 to Harlequins at Twickenham, which leaves them just one point ahead of bottom club Sale in the table. The Sharks closed the gap with their victory over Worcester on Friday night but confirmed on Saturday afternoon that coach John Mitchell had returned to South Africa after just a month at the club.

Smith said: "I don't know what is going on at Sale. I don't wish any ill will on anyone. How they handle their affairs is completely up to them. We can only control how we handle ours."

And Smith is confident the structure and fighting spirit is in place to ensure the Exiles survive, adding: "We have a rock-solid coaching staff, we have rock-solid senior players and it is up to us to make sure the younger players are rock solid.

"If we stay united and we fight together we will get out of it and in a funny twisted way we will be better for the adversity.

"I have been in one of these scraps before. In my first year at Bath we were in a relegation scrap and then the following year we topped the league.

"My experience tells me not to look over your shoulder and not to worry about things you can't control. There are three teams in vulnerable positions. We are in the middle of that.

"It will be a roller-coaster ride for the rest of the season. The most important thing is we hold our nerve and focus on improving our performance and make sure our reaction to this is constructive. You are only a loser when you stop fighting.

"What's on our plate next is Gloucester and we have to go and get a result there. That is where our minds and hearts have got to be."

Harlequins director of rugby Conor O'Shea, whose side are top of the table, said: "We are exactly where we want to be. We got the win which is all important."

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