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Franco van der Merwe (left) tries desperately to tackle Exeter winger Santiago Cordero

London Irish captain Franco van der Merwe hopes to stay with the club despite them being on the verge of Premiership relegation.

The 35-year-old South Africa lock joined the Exiles in August after being released by Cardiff Blues.

But Irish are set for an immediate return to the Championship after just three Premiership wins all season.

“I’ve enjoyed my time here from the start and it’s a great bunch of players,” Van der Merwe told BBC Sport.

The former Ulster lock has been ever-present in the Premiership this season and took on the captaincy in the new year following suspensions and injuries to team-mates David Paice and Mike Coman.

“The guys have accepted a lot of changes this season and embraced that going forward,” Van der Merwe told BBC Radio Berkshire.

“I’ve worked with (head coach) Les Kiss before and I’ll be very happy to stay here. The club has been very good for me.

“I’m probably at an age where they manage me very well every week and I respect that.”

Irish’s 45-5 defeat by leaders Exeter on Sunday left them nine points adrift of safety with just two games to play.

Declan Kidney’s side could be relegated even before their next fixture against Saracens on 29 April, with second-from-bottom Worcester only needing a draw to guarantee survival from their last two matches.

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