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Van der Merwe's heroics silence the Twickenham masses

A try for the ages lights up a thrilling opening weekend of Six Nations rugby as Scotland, Ireland and France register away wins

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'There's nothing in this group where you see he is like a sheep'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

London Irish head coach Les Kiss has explained how a first Test cap with England has elevated the confidence of Will Joseph, the recently turned 20-year-old who has since made a storming two-try start to the new Gallagher Premiership season. The winger played a minute off the bench in the second Test win over Australia in Brisbane and was then an unused replacement for the following week’s series-clinching victory in Sydney.

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The younger brother of Jonathan, the 31-year-old who won 54 England caps and featured off the bench in the 2019 World Cup final versus the Springboks in Yokohama, Joseph has returned to London Irish from his international tour with an added pep in his step.

The promising winger, who signed a new contract in June, has scored in the matches versus Worcester and Northampton ahead of Saturday’s trip to Bristol where he will wear the No14 jersey in a back three that features full-back Henry Arundell, the other teenager to make a Test-level breakthrough with England on their recent tour down under.

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Getting capped for your country at such a young age is a massive deal but Joseph has taken this exposure in his stride and London Irish are liking what they are seeing from the youngster so far in the new 2022/23 club season.

“Before Will went away (with England) he had this sense that he belongs at this level, at first grade, and there is now a sense that he feels he belongs at the world stage for sure,” said coach Kiss to RugbyPass ahead of the visit by Irish to Ashton Gate.

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“It’s just about opportunities and growing his understanding about how he just gets better and better at this level. We know how to look after the young guys well and give them the right exposure and challenge them at the right levels so that they do grow. Will has a wonderful temperament. He doesn’t get fazed, he just understands moments before they happen. He is really good at that defensively and attack-wise.

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“I just think the experience he has had away with Eddie (Jones), (Martin) Gleeson, (Anthony) Seibold and (Richard) Cockerill on that tour, he just seems to have grown that other depth of confidence that ‘I actually belong in this area’. That is a really good confidence but the two lads, including Henry, have got peers here (at Irish) that will keep them really honest and that is a really big plus for them.

“The boys here have a bit of craic with them and all that sort of stuff, that is important too and they respect that. It is important not to lose sight of that from their perspective and they won’t because the boys here are really tight-knit. They look after them but they also challenge them in the right way with a bit of craic in order to keep their feet on the ground.”

How does Joseph compare to his older brother Jonathan, who also came through the academy at London Irish before heading away to Bath and making it with England? “I don’t know Jonathan that well but Will is his own man,” reckoned Kiss. “There is nothing in this group where you see that he is like a sheep, that ‘whatever they are like I will be like that’. He is how own man and he is comfortable in his own skin.

“He is not a man of many words but he is a man of when he does something it says a lot. In training if he senses the space he will attack it, if he senses an opportunity or something that could actually hurt, he anticipates things well.

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“He does that in his mind with his technical/tactical mindset and he has got brilliantly quick feet. His body can move and his hips sway around but his feet always seem to take him where he needs to go. He plays like he is, he just believes in himself. He is his own man. He is a well-rounded boy, that is for sure.”

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