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How 'really coachable' 19-year-old produced a 20-minute MOTM cameo

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

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Last Sunday presented an incredible situation for the 19-year-old London Irish rookie Henry Arundell to capture the imagination and become the latest taxi off the academy ranks to get spoken about in glowing terms in the Gallagher Premiership. The Exiles were facing a heavy defeat when the youngster entered the fray at Brentford, Declan Kidney’s team trailing by 25-points and looking like a badly beaten side. 


However, an extraordinary turnaround was to take place and when the match came to a conclusion, London Irish had amazingly secured a 42-all draw and Arundell was awarded the man of the match by BT Sport for a 20-minute contribution that included a chip, chase and collect try and an assist. 

It was only the sixth ever Premiership appearance so far in the young full-back career of Arundell at the Irish, with whom he won an academy league title and was also involved with the England U18s and U20s. He will now take a spot on the club’s bench for this Sunday’s Challenge Cup quarter-final away to Toulon and head coach Les Kiss couldn’t be happier for the kid.

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“He has got a good sense of humour, he is deliberate in terms of how he goes about his conversations, I want to improve this, I want to work on that, how do I do this. He is very attentive to all his detail and is very deliberate with his work,” explained Kiss when asked by RugbyPass what sort of a character Arundell is in the Irish set-up.

“Away from that he works hard and smart to be able to say where do my strengths come through and where are my one or two things I have got to work on, and when you give him something to work on he just takes it and eats it up. The same with Will Joseph, they are both really coachable boys.


“I’m really pleased that those young guys, even Tom Pearson earlier in the year and Juan Gonzalez, they haven’t just gone out there and played conservative. They need to find out how good they can be. The reason I’m pleased is we are giving bandwidth to find out who they are and that bandwidth means they may make a mistake. 


Even Henry said he dropped the first ball (against Wasps). He could have stopped there and said I’ll make sure I don’t make another mistake, but he backs what he is… I’m really pleased those young guys are saying I will try to play my hand, challenge my skill set and see what comes out of it. That is a really pleasing thing. 

“It doesn’t mean we don’t expect errors, it means I’d rather look on the positive things you can do rather than take away what you are good at and be error-free. If you are error-free you are going to get nowhere, so that is really pleasing from a coaching perspective, from a club perspective. We want these young guys to find out how good they can be and the environment I hope allows them to do that

“But the biggest thing for the likes of Henry and Will Joseph, Juan, Tom Pearson and the other youngsters, Chunya (Munga), they work hard, they are humble but they don’t subjugate themselves to any greater power. They still want to be who they are and we explicitly say stretch your skillset and find out how good you can be. 

“Don’t sit underneath everyone, make sure you put your head above the parapet and see how good you can be, and that is a really big thing for us. That was part of the reason when we built the squad we brought a lot of good experience in, some internationals, so that is a bit of a safety net for them where they can express themselves with good experience around them.”


LONDON IRISH (vs Toulon, Sunday): 15. Tom Parton; 14. Kyle Rowe, 13. Curtis Rona, 12. Benhard van Rensburg, 11. Ollie Hassell-Collins; 10. Paddy Jackson, 9. Ben White; 1. Facundo Gigena, 2. Agustin Creevy, 3. Marcel van der Merwe, 4. Adam Coleman, 5. Rob Simmons, 6. Matt Rogerson (capt), 7. Juan Martin Gonzalez, 8. Albert Tuisue. Reps: 16. Matt Cornish, 17. Will Goodrick-Clarke, 18. Ollie Hoskins, 19. Steve Mafi, 20. Tom Pearson, 21. Nick Phipps, 22. Will Joseph, 23. Henry Arundell.


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