Wallaby great worried family name had put target on son's back
Wallaby great Michael Lynagh can clearly remember the first time his son Louis played at Twickenham where he returns on Saturday to try and help Harlequins defy the odds and win the Gallagher Premiership title by defeating reigning champions Exeter.
It’s a far cry from his first appearance in 2009 when Louis’s Richmond mini-rugby team won a tournament and the right to play on the pitch during the break between a Premiership double header at the stadium.
As Lynagh and his son walked home after the match Louis turned to his dad, pointed out that he was only eight-years-old and asked how old he had been when he made his debut on the pitch. “I thought you cheeky… let’s see if you get back there one day.”
That day has now arrived courtesy of the most remarkable comeback ever staged in the Premiership as Harlequins overturned a 28-0 deficit at Bristol in their play-off semi-final to win 43-36 in extra time with 20-year-old Louis scoring a vital try.
Due to the cricket commitments of his other sons Tom (18) and Nick (14), Lynagh was the only family member in the stands at Bristol where the delirious Harlequins fans showered the World Cup winning outside half in beer as they deliriously celebrated the great comeback.
For the final, on the ground where 30 years ago Lynagh helped Australia defeat England to win the Rugby World Cup, he will be joined by wife Isabella along with Tom and Nick for what will be the first time the whole family will have watched Louis in Premiership action.
Louis sat Fijian superstar Semi Radradra down on the pitch with a perfectly-timed tackle at Bristol and while that delighted his father, there were some words of advice following his try. “When he got home I told him that he carried the ball in the wrong hand when he scored his try and he said “yes, I know – but I was going to get there.” He is starting to make good decisions like winning the turn over after Joe Marler’s great tackle,” said Lynagh.
“Very rarely do I watch a game again on TV but on Sunday morning I sat down and watched the entire match and I was even nervous then. It probably won’t be the last time I watch it.
“I think I am a pretty good watcher at matches and am a lot more relaxed than when Louis first came into the Quins team. I wondered then if he was physically OK. You question if they are ready but I always knew he had really great talent but then all of a sudden you are thrown in against men with a bit of a name and so you don’t go under the radar and everyone knows who you are.
“He seems to have coped well and I only got to watch him “live” for the first time for Quins against Newcastle a couple of weeks ago but he had come on against Leicester and he did some good things and tackled Nemani Nadolo twice and that gave him confidence.
“When he came home after the Leicester game I asked him if he felt comfortable and he said he did and wasn’t overawed. As a result, I am a little less nervous now because he seems to be able to handle it and is performing. He is growing in confidence and no doubt he will be tested by Exeter as he was in the first play of the Bristol game when they moved the ball onto his wing
“I was sitting with the Quins fans high up in the stands at Bristol and there were Semi Radradra and Charles Piutau running at him and you are thinking “ just get in the way somehow” and he did really well. He is still learning and the tackle on Radradra was well-timed and it must have given him a lot of confidence as well as those around him. However, it didn’t work that well did it because they were 28-0 down!
“There was an incredible atmosphere amongst the Quins fans having earlier been disappointed and the thoughts then were “by how many?” as Bristol took the lead. Then all of a sudden there was something amazing going on and Quins were running rampant. It all went berserk when Louis scored with beer flying about and we didn’t care. It was the most unbelievable come back.”
Lynagh’s middle son Tom, a goal-kicking outside half, is heading out to join the Queensland Reds academy in mid-August while Nick, a full back, is in the Harlequins academy and all three boys are qualified for Italy, England and Australia which could lead to some difficult choices if they all progress to senior rugby. Louis was born in Treviso where Lynagh lived with wife Isabella as he finished his playing career before returning to London where he had helped establish Saracens as a major force in the professional game.
The question of international qualification is something the Lynagh family is not considering at the moment and he explained: “I think it is something that is more in other people’s minds at the moment. It will be what it will be and it’s not an issue at the moment and all that is on Louis mind is getting into the Quins team to play Exeter and what comes after that, a holiday for four weeks or something else it will be a consequence of how he plays on Saturday. Until it becomes an issue then we don’t have to address it and Louis is pretty relaxed about it.”
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