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'You wouldn't see him in the middle of a dance circle like a Faf'

By Liam Heagney

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Raffi Quirke has enjoyed an accelerated rise to prominence in 2021, the 2o-year-old making his breakthrough at Sale in the new Alex Sanderson era and then earning inclusion as one of eight uncapped players in Eddie Jones’ England training squad for next week’s mini-camp in London. Not bad for a scrum-half whose first-team experience so far amounts to 13 appearances, just his second start coming in last Saturday’s Premiership win over Bath. 

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Half-backs by their nature are typically extroverted characters, but Sanderson has been telling RugbyPass about how Quirke, a recent Six Nations U20s Grand Slam winner with England, goes against the grain of that established pattern and is an exception to the unwritten rule that nines and tens must be cocky individuals.   

He’s not cut from that cloth, he is almost the opposite of that,” outlined Sanderson when RugbyPass asked the Sale boss for an insight into what type of character will hook up with the England squad after Sunday’s round two league outing at London Irish. “He is very humble. I wouldn’t say quiet but he is not an extrovert. 

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Jack Nowell guests on the latest episode of RugbyPass Offload
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Jack Nowell guests on the latest episode of RugbyPass Offload

“He is gregarious, has got a lot of good friends but you wouldn’t see him in the middle of a dance circle like a Faf (de Klerk). Faf did hip hop dance at school, so that is why he can do it, he can really dance well. Raf can but not as well. He is extremely industrious, he is self-critical to a fault.

“So if you go to him after a session and ask for his reflection straight afterwards he will go straight to the bad kick, the bad pass which is a really admirable quality but potentially, for a really world-class nine, you need a little bit of cockiness maybe without being arrogant. 

“You need a bit of that diamond-hard resilience where if you do the odd thing wrong because you see the ball a lot, it’s just water off a duck’s back. Not to say that it [the mistake] sits with him, I am not saying that because he just gets on with it. But over time in a big environment, it could be a factor that affects him mentally. We’re working on that with him, not to be so hard on himself, but he is almost the opposite of what you assume your stereotypical half-back would be.

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“He is very industrious in terms of his process, his reflection process, his attention for each and every session, how he structures that for the week to get the most out of the week and the most out of himself to put himself in the right mental attitude, his curiousness to go and seek out a senior player and talk to them, to feed off them, so he and Faf are very close,” continued Sale boss Sanderson who only arrived at the Manchester club last January.  

“And coming back to his potential, how hypercritical he is of himself at times is the one thing that has forced him to progress as fast as he has. He is constantly looking to improve all the time rather than sit on the talent he has got which is massive and obvious, but it is never good enough for him. He has accelerated himself through his own industry really, his own diligence.”

Despite that diligence, did Sanderson genuinely envisage an England call-up happening for Quirke just eight months after he took over from Steve Diamond? “I knew it was a matter of time. Honestly, he was that good. It was just a matter of time and exposure. I didn’t think he would get there this quick – but he is not there, he is just in the training squad and we’ll see what happens.”

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'You wouldn't see him in the middle of a dance circle like a Faf'

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