New rugby star Henry Arundell has the X factor every team dreams of | rugby federation
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A few months ago, Eddie Jones showed up at an England Under-20 camp to watch over the next generation. Every national coach dreams of finding a teenage gem, someone with a bit of real X-factor, so Jones asked the assembled coaches if they felt there was anyone good enough to feature in the FIFA Cup. rugby world 2023. If there’s one who could, was the answer, it’s that black-haired boy over there.
If he was under a lot of people’s radar at this point, he’s certainly no longer a secret. Henry Arundell is his name and, after six league appearances for the London Irish, his meteoric rise shows few signs of slowing down. In early February, the 19-year-old full-back scored a superb lengthy try for England Under-20s against Scotland Under-20s in Edinburgh, suggesting he had something special in him. Late last month he also scored two fine tries, including a glorious chip and regather, in the Exiles’ Premiership Cup semi-final against Leicester.
Often at this stage young players can rest on their laurels or start finding less accommodating defenses. Arundell simply hit the turbo switch and revved up to another level. Another classy individual score helped the Irishman pull off a stunning comeback to draw 42-42 with Wasps this month before coming off the bench in Toulon on Sunday and scoring a try that had even alumni amazed pros in awe.
If you haven’t seen it already – and it went viral – it really is a marvel to see. With his side trailing on a wet start to the afternoon at Stade Mayol, Arundell barely had time to consider his options after Nick Phipps shoveled a rushing pass in his direction near his own line. While there was much to admire in his instinctive decision to try and outrun initial cover in the open, the best was yet to come.
Twice a pair of Toulon defenders felt they had it covered; twice he deftly mis-footed them on the outside before diving into the right corner to score a try worthy of winning any game. As things stood, the conversion flew out and the Irish lost by one point, but there was no doubting the show’s unexpected star.
Coming from a military family, educated at Harrow School and attached to the Irish Academy in London since his teens, the million dollar question is what happens next. Arundell is believed to be eligible to play international rugby for England, Scotland, Wales and Cyprus and, even before the weekend, senior Twickenham officials were instructed to ‘bring Arundell in’ before whoever nibbles and combs it.
So there must be a good chance the youngster will tour Australia with England this summer, if only to dissuade Scotland from picking him to go to South America as part of their senior squad. . Scotland are looking for a long-term successor to Stuart Hogg and Gregor Townsend was quick to pounce on Premiership-based dual-qualifiers who may have to wait longer for a chance to shine south of the border.
But as Rugby Football Union director of rugby Conor O’Shea made clear immediately after the Six Nations, England are well aware of the need to sharpen their attacking edge and give defenses something else. only a solid pack and decent kicking game to think about. in regards to. “What Eddie is going to look at now is how to stretch defenses,” O’Shea said. “Having a bit more gas in the team is something we are very aware of doing. We need to score more tries, we know that.
The ‘gas’ is certainly something Arundell can provide and, with the London Irish now out of Europe and unable to make the Premiership top four, there is a clear chance for Jones to invite him to a mini-camp planned in England in London between 22 and 24 May. “There is certainly an interest [from England] but Henry is the first to know there are parts of his game he needs to work on,” London Irish director of rugby Declan Kidney said this month. “What you don’t want him to do is have one or two caps… isn’t it better if he comes in as a complete package?” I’m sure the powers that be will do the right thing around the boy because he’s got talent.
Sometimes, however, talent writes their own faster scripts. Modern rugby, as Teddy Thomas’ athleticism and Finn Russell’s quick-wittedness underline for Racing 92 against Sale in Paris on Sunday, is entering an era where risk-taking is increasingly encouraged. There will be days when Arundell fails to score stunning tries from the length of the pitch and looks like a youngster with a lot to learn. But every sport needs athletes who can light up a stadium in an instant and rugby union has undoubtedly unearthed a twinkling new star.