Alex Sanderson believes Sale Sharks are developing a northern version of Faf de Klerk, predicting that scrum-half Raffi Quirke is in line for England recognition. A member of the England U20s squad, Quirke has replaced World Cup winner de Klerk in the second half of the last three Sale games in the Gallagher Premiership. 

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He is now expected to fulfil the same role against Northampton next Saturday as the Sharks bid to strengthen their top-four position. De Klerk is mentoring Quirke who was a junior triathlon champion and lists Olympic stars, Alistair and Jonny Brownlee, as his idols but he opted for rugby rather than athletics as a 15-year-old when he joined the Sale academy.

Now 20, Quirke is making an impact at Premiership level and Sanderson, the Manchester club’s director of rugby, revealed Quirke is already on the England radar having impressed at U16 and U18 levels. Sanderson said: “Raffi is like a younger, more northern version of Faf de Klerk. I know he is on the England radar and is very highly rated. If he keeps doing what he is doing then a summer tour cannot be that far away.

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“He is electric around the breakdown and his kicking has impressed the England coaches Mark Mapletoft and Alan Dickens. You have to be able to manage the game and kick your way out of scenarios and he can do that as well.

“It is only time on the field that he needs to become the best decision-maker he can be about when to run and kick. He is good at that as it is and showed that in the last two games. He controls the grey area between the ten and the future is really bright for Raffi. 

“I’m really happy that we have him at Sale and I want to give him as much opportunity as possible but not burn him out mentally. You have to look after these guys. Normally nines and tens have a bit of swagger about them but he isn’t one of them and is a solid down to earth lad. Maybe being northern means he has a very level had on his shoulders and says ‘thank you’ every time he gets selected. 

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“We have a shirt presentation when a lad gets his first start of the club and Faf gave it to Raffi. He wanted Faf to give it to him because of the respect he has for him and it shows the mentoring system we have at the club. We want guys in the same position to be mates.”

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