'I'm actually about 108kgs - when I first joined out of school I was 92kgs'
It was quite the puzzle. Rookie back-rower Jack Kenningham was listed as a mere 92kgs on the Harlequins website, yet that supposed lack of serious bulk hadn’t prevented him from brewing up a tackling storm in recent weeks with the Gallagher Premiership title chasers.
His fledgling top-flight career amounted to only six matches, just three as a starter, but he had no hesitation getting stuck in, producing a lung-bursting 72 tackles in 308 minutes – effectively one tackle every four minutes.
Ahead of Saturday’s latest fixture at home to Bath, a game in which Kenningham will don the No7 shirt inherited from the legendary Chris Robshaw via the injured Will Evans, Harlequins had their cub openside up for scrutiny at their weekly media briefing.
Kenningham’s giddy level of excitement was easily discernible over Zoom. After all, he is the youngster who had a season ticket at The Stoop before learning how to play from the age of ten at nearby Richmond took up his Saturdays.
The back-rower remembers the “lovely seats” he and his dad used to have, his father buying them as a crafty ruse to wean his son off playing football, and he was salivating at the prospect that his parents David and Sarah will now finally be able to see him in first-team action as Harlequins fans will be allowed back in small numbers to The Stoop this weekend.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 23, 2021
But back to the other small number, his alleged weight. When RugbyPass asked Kenningham to verify if he was indeed a slip of a 92kg lad, as suggested by the Harlequins website, his candour immediately got the better of him and the weight admitted to made sense given how he has so robustly settled into the juddering Premiership collisions.
“I’m not that,” he insisted. “I’m actually about 108kgs. It was when I first joined the academy out of school I would have been about 92kgs but I have definitely put on a lot of weight since then. We need to change that.”
Harlequins have since adjusted the metrics on their website profile of Kenningham. He likes the bulk he now carries to the fight but getting it on was no mean feat for the 21-year-old Londoner who stands at 6ft 3 and hails from the St Margarets/East Twickenham area within walking distance of The Stoop.
“I do like the weight. We have got room to manoeuvre up and down but I definitely think I have got a relatively big frame, so I could probably put on some more. It’s just about working alongside how I’m feeling on the pitch and what works for me. I’m pretty happy with it at the moment at about 108kgs.
“It’s a long process,” he added about the toil involved in sculpting 16kgs onto his frame. “I have worked really hard with my S&C coach, James Mealing. I was really skinny when I first came in. We do skin fold tests and it is muscle mass that has been added, but it was a slow process and for someone like me it’s difficult. It takes time and I’m always having to work with it and fight it because if I didn’t I would lose weight very easily.”
While Kenningham clearly loves a juicy tackle – he put in 24 in the win earlier this month over Wasps – there was a time at Harlequins when it was a bruising, painful experience and he had to learn the hard way.
“Definitely, technique-wise I have got a lot better. I remember playing at U18s in the academy league and I was running around like a headless chicken and getting my head on the wrong side. It’s definitely something that we have been working on. I guess it is just being brave and making sure you are technically doing what you have been practising in training. The main thing was just keeping my head up all the way through the collision.
“A strength of mine is chop tackling,” he continued. “I just love it. It is just knowing you get better the more you play with players. If they know I’m on their inside they know I am probably going to look for a chop tackle. Say if we want to go for a dominant hit, if they know I’m on their inside they will probably look to go high and I actually had a few with Matt Symons in one of the games, it must have been against Wasps, where it worked really well.
“I guess I like the rush and when your teammates get around you after doing something good, having the support of your teammates and having them getting excited for you, that is something I just love. I want to make my teammates happy, I want to do what is good for them. It’s just a real buzz after doing something good knowing you are helping out the team.”
There was initial speculation that the assistant coach would be a good candidate to take over at Harlequins https://t.co/EmvCbv8mZK
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 26, 2021
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