Bristol – Gallagher Premiership side Bristol Bears are set to make an offer to sign 30-year-old Zimbabwean tighthead prop Lovejoy Chawatama should calamity strike at the Exiles.
The storm clouds over London Irish worsened on Friday when HM Revenue and Customs filed winding-up petitions over an unpaid tax bill.
The development came just days after the Exiles were given a one-week extension of a deadline set by the RFU to complete a takeover of the club by an American consortium or demonstrate they have the funding needed to operate for the entirety of the 2023-24 season with a £30m debt hanging over the club.
Irish gained the extension after current owner Mick Crossan stepped in to pay 50 percent of May’s payroll, which is reported to be in the region of £500,000 in total, but the RFU has ordered the full wages must be paid by the new deadline which has been set as 4pm on Tuesday, June 6.
With the landscape desperately unstable at Irish, players and agents are understandably preparing career lifeboats should the club follow Wasps and Worcester Warriors in going under.
Bristol Bears are closely monitoring the situation at London Irish with director of rugby Pat Lam sensing an opportunity to strengthen his frontrow with the signing of Chawatama.
Chawatama, who was fantastically named Zimbabwe Sports Personality of the Year at the Zim Achievers Awards in 2017, joined the Exiles from London Welsh in the same year.
The 5ft 11in, 18 stone prop has made 75 appearances for London Irish and could provide Bristol with some additional experience in the number three jersey next season with first-choice tighthead Kyle Sinckler set to be absent throughout the season with England commitments.