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'We probably have got a much better rugby player than we thought'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Stephen White/CameraSport via Getty Images)

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Adam Jones has explained his surprise that Jack Walker has turned out to be a far better player than he originally thought when Harlequins signed the hooker from Bath last summer. With ex-Wales international Scott Baldwin on the move to Worcester following the Gallagher Premiership title final win over Exeter, the London club had a big hole to fill in their front row.

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They turned to Walker even though he hadn’t been the first choice hooker at Bath under Stuart Hooper or Todd Blackadder. The 25-year-old had come through the system at Leeds and skippered England to World Cup glory at U20s level in 2016 after being part of their title-winning squad two years earlier when Maro Itoje was captain. 

Bath became his route in the Premiership but he couldn’t make a convincing enough claim and was a sub in 42 of his 59 league appearances. However, it has now turned out he was a hidden gem whose exploits so far at Harlequins have exceeded what assistant coach Jones was expecting. 

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Walker has started all nine Harlequins matches in the Premiership and this Saturday against Cardiff at The Stoop will see him make his second successive start for the club in the Champions Cup. It all amounts to a shrewd bit of summer business by the London club. 

“I have always known about him,” said Jones when asked by RugbyPass for this verdict on the front row’s reliability for Harlequins. “He captained England U20s and was destined for great things. He went to Bath probably expecting to kick on but Tom Dunn coming on the scene made that shirt his own. 

“We signed him because we were losing Scott, who was a big player for us, and we needed someone who was really good at the fundamentals, the scrum and the lineout, and Jack is. I don’t think he was allowed to show it as much in Bath, so he has been brilliant for us. He is still young – he is only 25 – so he has got a lot of time left in the game. We have Sam Riley coming through, Jack Musk, and Joe Gray, who has been around for 830 years, is helping them all out. 

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“Jack Walker has been brilliant for us. I didn’t realise how good he was until he signed, to be honest with you. You look at his Bath clips the last three, four years, you won’t see him offloading out the back or finishing two-on-ones with simple handling in wide channels. You wouldn’t have seen that. We probably have got a much better rugby player than we thought.”

What is he like in the dressing room? “He is excellent,” added Jones. “He speaks well. When you come into a club you generally step back a bit but he is coming out now and the fact is he is playing really well. That is the main thing. Sometimes you get some players who talk a load of bulls*** and don’t back it up but certainly he is speaking well and is trying to lead the scrum more, which is good for me, and he has shown on the field what a good player he is.” 

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