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England prospect could be 'as good, if not better, than Faf'

By PA
(Photo by Scott Powlick / www.photosport.nz)

Young star Raffi Quirke has been backed to be ‘every bit as good, if not better’ than outstanding Springbok scrum-half Faf de Klerk by his Sale boss.

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Quirke played a key role in Sale’s Gallagher Premiership 28-22 victory over Harlequins, scoring two tries and continually testing the visiting defence with sniping runs around the fringes.

Following successive losses to Exeter and Gloucester, the Sharks responded superbly, helped by man of the match Quirke.

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With De Klerk playing for South Africa in the recent Rugby Championship, the 20-year-old has been handed an opportunity to impress from the start, and he took his chance against previously-unbeaten Quins.

Sharks director of rugby Alex Sanderson said: “He’s a star in the making, isn’t he?

“A lot of it is about not overplaying him, because he’s brave. He’ll carry into forwards and at some point he’s just going to get hurt, just by the weight and the number of collisions. It’s up to me to look after him.

“If we look after him, and this goes for England as well, he’s got a very long, bright future ahead of him.”

Quirke’s energetic displays have unsurprisingly drawn comparisons with De Klerk, with him being nicknamed ‘Faf de Quirke’ by Sale team-mates, but Sanderson thinks he could be even better than the World Cup winner.

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“I think he deserves his own nickname. I think he’s his own man and he has every chance of being every bit as good, if not better, than Faf,” Sale’s boss added. “Faf’s got better hair but that’s about it!”

England boss Eddie Jones was at the match and, asked whether the scrum-half should be in England’s squad for the Autumn Nations Series, Sanderson responded: “I just can’t see why he wouldn’t.

“I want that for him, I want him to play at the highest level and come back (from England) better with better coaching.

“Excellence breeds excellence in terms of who he plays with and trains with, so I want him to go and come back with a boom. Even though we’re short of scrum-halves at the moment, we’ll find a way.”

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Thanks in part to Quirke, the Sharks moved into fourth position – for the time being at least – but are still three points behind Harlequins having played a game more.

Quins garnered a losing bonus point and boss Tabai Matson was content with the outcome having seen his side struggle with their discipline.

“We talked about matching their physicality all week and I thought we did a good job,” Matson said.

“We certainly fronted up and, if it wasn’t for some of those defensive sets, the score could have been worse.

“When you go away from home and the penalty count is 21-9, you’re always going to battle to get a bonus point.

“We lacked composure because they put us under pressure when we exited and then they did a good job at the set-piece, which kept the penalty count ticking over.”

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