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Back from the abyss, Bath's revival is gathering steam

Johan van Graan has quietly set about improving every facet of the West Country club and results are starting to come

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'His old man was getting stuck into him, calling him soft'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Adam Jones has an amusing tale to tell about Jack Kenningham, the effervescent youngster who came from nowhere to make himself an indispensable openside part of the swashbuckling Harlequins team that swept its way to Gallagher Premiership glory in June 2021. The assistant coach was heading to the car along with managerial colleague Jerry Flannery in January this year when they stumbled across the 22-year-old in the Stoop car park.

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Kenningham had been a starter in that afternoon’s Harlequins win over Exeter but only lasted the pace until the break and missed the second half. “Myself and Jerry were walking to the car and his old man was getting stuck into him calling him soft,” remembered Jones. “He was, ‘Tell him, tell him that he is soft’. Next thing he is out with his neck.”

The surgery that was needed in the days that followed drew a line under the 2021/22 campaign for Kenningham but he is now back in harness for Harlequins and lining out on Sunday for the third Premiership game in a row in the No6 jersey, a switch from the No7 role where he made his breakthrough in the absence of the injured Will Evans.

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He has filled out a hell of a lot. With the injury, he got bigger. His pool became dramatically better. With the long-term injury physio, he basically went for 45 minutes of treatment and 15 minutes pool, just keeping the boy’s spirits up. All the boys who spend time there, their pool game goes up and the fact he plays seven and six helps with a few injuries we have.

“Jack is a good player. I first came across him when I started coaching A league three, four years ago and he was just a gangly six or seven. He’d be running awkwardly and do all that and then when you saw him play you were actually good. He reminds me actually of Dan Lydiate, the way he tackles.

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“He is like that, real low, real chop, puts his head where it hurts. He’s probably as heavy as Dan now. He has filled out but he is good, a real good ball carrier, good over the ball, his work rate is exceptional but he unfortunately had that bad injury.

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“He was one of our best players, he was phenomenal,” added Jones, drifting back to 15 months ago when the form shown by Kenningham resulted in him getting a summer series England call that was ultimately ruined by him picking up covid at the time.

“The injury was horrendous to be fair because he has just gone through an amazing high. But the fact that he is young, he is incredibly new to it. He wasn’t a superstar coming through. He was a good, solid school player. No one even thought he was going to be the next bloody Richie McCaw but it turns out he is really good.

“He looks a bit awkward and still does things unconventionally but what is brilliant about him is he is a great kid, lovely parents. He is good around the boys and good fun. I like Jack.”

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