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‘We’re only scratching the surface’: Les Kiss on young talent, bench rotation and the Worcester win



London Irish Head Coach Les Kiss believes there is much upside to come from the Exiles’ pool of talented outside backs following a fulfilling Round 1 victory against Worcester Warriors.

Five of Irish’s seven scores on the day, including a brace from substitute Henry Arundell, were notched by backs in the 45-14 win at the Gtech Community Stadium.

The win arrives off the back of difficulties faced by Saturday’s opponents, Worcester Warriors, off the field in what was the third consecutive opening day fixture between the Clubs.

Kiss shared his sympathy regarding the wider context outside of the 80 minutes but was unfeigned in his side’s attitude going into the game.

“I think there was an interesting emotional energy surrounding the whole day, notwithstanding the bigger picture with the Queen’s passing.

“In terms of Worcester’s situation, the narrative was really how they were going to manage this and we were very considerate of how that was, but we had to focus on what we have worked for as well.

“We talked about managing how we approached it; did it manifest the way we like?

“Maybe not completely, but there was a weird emotional energy around the game, and it was tough for those guys and where they’ve come from.”

With attacking intent evident as ever for the Boys in Green, the team also showed their force as a defensive outfit by staving off Warriors up to the fourth quarter.

“In some part, we had to just focus on what we were about, and I think that came through in our first 20 minutes.

“Defensively, we were absolutely brilliant to the things that we had worked on and that defence was crucial to be able to take away what we did.

“That spark that can happen for a team in that situation, they possibly could have got something going and grow energy from that so I was really pleased with our focus in that first 20 to 30 minutes, as they had two good sets on us down in our 22 and we repelled it.”

Defensive duties were not exclusive to certain areas of the squad, the whole matchday 23 contributing to a round-high tackle percentage of 95.15%.

With and without the ball, winger Ollie Hassell-Collins was one of many standouts after bagging a try of his own as well as an impressive stat line of seven tackles (none missed), one turnover forced and three defenders beaten.

The Australian was complimentary of Hassell-Collins, who was involved in all of Irish’s first-half scores as well as assisting Henry Arundell’s first try of the Premiership season in the second period.



“Ollie has been influential for a couple of years now, and I think there has been another growth in him for sure in the offseason,” Kiss elucidated.

“His training has been impeccable, but I thought we saw today that he used the extra pass, he used his pace and did enough to sit defences where he needed to then feed other people into positions.

“He also had to finish off a fairly physical end to score try, there was some nice stuff from Ollie today but I sometimes still feel that we’re scratching the surface with him.

“There’s only upside to him all the way, and there has been some real quality feedback from his peers in training in the way that he’s engaging his voice in the game too.

“He’s being more vocal, more direct in how he can help other people around him because he is a dangerous beast when he opens up.”

The excitement of Irish’s Head Coach was not capped to just the 23-year-old, with Arundell’s contributory deuce of tries only furthered with Will Joseph’s third career try for Irish.

Being the Club’s first England representatives since 2013, Arundell and Joseph only extended their recent form on Saturday and Kiss believes there is more to come in relation to international recognition from the wider squad.

“There is a sense of a confidence boost and a sense that they belong in Test footy, they believe that they can belong in that territory.

“It would be remiss of me to not say that we have a number of outside backs that could live in that space, Ollie [Hassell-Collins] is growing, Ben [Loader] will have his chances at some stage and Tom Parton has been in that area too.

“That experience, you can’t replace that and I have had good chats with Martin Gleeson (England Attack Coach) about some of the stuff we can continue to grow with them, so that conversation is solid and we want to do as much as we can to help those two lads and all of our outside backs.”



Arundell’s introduction to the game on 46 minutes, and score a minute later, spurred on a jubilant Gtech Community Stadium for the first points of the second forty.

The coaching teams were seemingly no different, sharing the excitement of the Exile Nation as the teenager continued to cement his name amongst the division’s most exciting talents.

Kiss joked: “I’d be inhuman if I didn’t!

“With Henry, everything he touches turns to gold at the moment but it’s not by accident.

“It’s not just him also, it’s also how the team work around him to open up opportunities for him.

“I know we saw that almost unbelievable situation in the Test matches in Australia, he creates special moments and he nearly created another opportunity when he chipped the ball and it bobbled around.

“He’s got something about him, again it’s not by accident but there’s a true ability that’s with him.

“When you have guys like Ben Loader and Matt Williams who are the recent youth, he’s stepping into that bridge now where they are working so close together that it makes a massive difference to what he can do.

“He’s really appreciative of what his teammates do for him, and I am excited for him and what he can do.”

Arundell’s introduction was one of eight on the day as Declan Kidney emptied the bench in the first run-out of the campaign, with utilisation of depth set to be an important component of Irish’s season.

“We had to manage some of their [Henry Arundell and Will Joseph’s] minutes, they have been training and today we managed Henry’s pitch time.

“The use of our replacements was critical; giving Paddy [Jackson] a chance to catch a breath, to see Luca Morisi at 12, give Benhard [van Rensburg] a go at 10 and to have a young nine in Caolan Englefield on in place of Ben White was crucial.

“We gave Danilo [Fischetti] a chance to feel his way into how we play in the Premiership, so we talked a lot about how we managed our replacements going forward and I thought we did so well today.”

Content & Images from – London Irish Rugby


Hill ready for Chiefs test at the AJ Bell



Following an extended break due to his involvement in England’s summer tour of Australia, the Sharks family finally got their chance to see Jonny Hill in action last week as the British & Irish Lion made his highly anticipated debut against Bath at The Rec.

But rather than focus on his own efforts, it was the team performance at Bath that Jonny was especially proud of on his first outing as a Shark, with the 28-year-old recognising the resilience of his new teammates in the face of adversity after going down to fourteen men after just nine minutes.

He said: “I was really impressed with the boys at Bath. I thought we fought really hard and showed a lot of perseverance going down to fourteen and then thirteen men at some stages.”

It was a performance to be proud of for Jonny too as the England International played all 80 minutes to help the Sharks complete their second consecutive bonus point victory in as many weeks.

After seamlessly slotting into the Sale squad following a busy summer on tour with England, Jonny credits the extended break offered to him by Sale as a catalyst for his early form this season.

He said: “The extra time I had off following the tour was good. The main thing it allowed me to do was freshen up physically and mentally whilst it also gave me the chance get used to being in a new environment. I’m feeling good for it now though and looking forward to getting stuck into the season.”

It’s a season of change in many areas for Jonny, having to settle into a new city and integrate himself amongst the squad. But the Devon-born giant admits he’s been pleasantly surprised by the northern weather at least.

He said: “It’s been brilliant so far to be fair. I’ve been here five or six weeks now and luckily the weather has been really nice since I moved up. I’ve not been up to too much so far, just getting into the swing of things in pre-season and spending time with the lads. I’ve managed to played a bit of golf but I haven’t found myself a beach to relax on just yet.”

The culture shock of a move from the South-West was balanced by the bromance Jonny already shared with Tom Curry. In fact he revealed he enjoys both Curry twins’ company, so much so that he moved in with the pair when he first arrived in Manchester.

He said: “I’ve spent quite a lot of time with the Curry’s. I knew Tom from England and the Lions and he offered to put me up when I first arrived. That was a strange experience! I’m glad to be out of their way for a bit now.”

Hill is set to make his first appearance in front of the Sharks faithful on Saturday, with the 6ft 7in lock expected to start against his former side.

And after spending seven trophy-laden years at Sandy Park, Jonny knows just what to expect.

He added: “It’s going to be very physical, especially around the breakdown and the Chiefs always bring it up front. It’s going to be a very attritional game but I’m excited for the challenge. I’m just not so excited to see what’s going to happen at the bottom of those rucks!”

Catch Jonny in action this weekend as Sale Sharks face off against his former side Exeter Chiefs at the AJ Bell Stadium. With both sides still unbeaten so far this season, it’s set to be an absolute belter on Saturday afternoon.

Get tickets here

Images & Content from Sale Sharks Rugby

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Match Report: Bath Rugby 15-29 Gloucester (Premiership Rugby Cup)



Match summary – Bath Rugby 15-29 Gloucester

A youthful Bath Rugby side put in a spirited display in their Premiership Rugby Cup meeting with Gloucester, but the visitors’ experience told in the second half. 

Tom Doughty’s converted try and a George Worboys penalty had the Blue, Black and White 10-7 ahead at half-time. 

Jack Reeves’ double added to Jake Polledri’s opener to put Gloucester in front and Kyle Moyle edged the game out of sight. 

Bath remained in the hunt for points until late on and hooker John Stewart’s score proved a consolation just past the hour.

Team News

Tom Ellis returned to captain the side along with Ruaridh McConnochie, both having missed eight months of action.

Alongside their experience, Assistant Coach Luke Charteris gave his younger players their first run out of the season with Sam Harris and Louie Hennessey earning their senior debuts. 

Second row pairing of Michael Etete and JJ Tonks were also appearing for Bath for the first time.

Gloucester welcomed some experience back as Jonny May, Polledri and Lewis Ludlow were named by George Skivington.

Bath Rugby: 15 Sam Harris, 14 Ruaridh McConnochie, 13 Louie Hennessey, 12 Will Butt, 11 Gabe Goss, 10 George Worboys, 9 Max Green; 1 Arthur Cordwell, 2 Tom Doughty, 3 Johannes Jonker, 4 Michael Etete, 5 JJ Tonks, 6 Tom Ellis ©, 7 Ethan Staddon, 8 Nahum Merigan

Impact players: 16 John Stewart, 17 Archie Stanley, 18 Kieran Verden, 19 Mackenzie Graham, 20 Thompson Cowan, 21 Tom Carr-Smith, 22 Max Wright, 23 Darren Atkins

Gloucester: 15 Kyle Moyle, 14 Tom Seabrook, 13 Jack Reeves, 12 Giorgi Kveseladze, 11 Jonny May, 10 George Barton, 9 Stephen Varney; 1 Ciaran Knight, 2 Henry Walker, 3 Bryan O’Connor, 4 Arthur Clark, 5 Cameron Jordan, 6 Jack Clement, 7 Lewis Ludlow (c), 8 Jake Polledri

Replacements: 16 Seb Blake, 17 Fed Ma’a, 18 James Pollard, 19 Freddie Thomas, 20 Jack Bartlett, 21 Matty Jones, 22 Isaac Marsh, 23 Jake Morris

First half

The first 10 minutes were evenly matched on physicality, with the ball going through both Bath and Gloucester hands in attack.

Debutant Harris got an early touch on the ball on the receiving end of a nicely placed crossfield kick and demonstrated Bath’s attacking intent.

With solid hits coming from Arthur Cordwell and Etete, and strong carrying from Will Butt, the hosts looked in a good place. However, Gloucester had their moments too.

Italy international Polledri received the ball off the back of a line-out to charge over the line, giving his side the first points of the game.

Answering back, Bath cashed in on a penalty and Worboys got his side’s first points on the board.  

Showing their intent once again, a break from Gabe Goss put Bath on the front foot as he made 15 metres down the wing. Spotting the space, youngster Harris put boot to ball to bounce it into touch deep inside the Gloucester 22 as Bath began to put the pressure on.

It paid off as after a succession of penalties, Doughty bided his time at the back of a driving maul to burrow over and Worboys’ extras made it 10-7.

Edging closer to the close of the half, Bath needed to be resilient to thwart Gloucester of any points and they did just that, preventing such with a superb turnover.

Second half

Gloucester came out strong in the second period as Reeves capitalised on some open field to sprint over and George Barton kept the scoreline ticking over with another conversion.

The Cherry & Whites continued in the ascendancy with Reeves grabbing his second just before the hour with a bulldozing close-range finish which saw JJ Tonks sinbinned in the process.

A third second-half try came just shy of the hour mark as full-back Moyle slipped through a gap on the outside for Gloucester’s fourth.

Not to be downbeat, Bath bit back quickly and replacement hooker Stewart delivered accurate arrows before steering a maul over for a try.

Barton ticked Gloucester’s tally to 29 to make Bath need two scores to claw their way back in and despite many entries into the 22, they couldn’t quite get past a stubborn away defence.

With many patterns beginning to emerge of what Johann van Graan is trying to instil, there are plenty of positives, as well as work ons, to take from the performance. 

Pol Roger Performance of the Match


GALLERY: GLOUCESTER (H – CUP) by Bath Rugby on Exposure

Content & Images from – Bath Rugby

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Baxter outlines Simmonds departure



Exeter Chiefs

By Andrew Baldock

Rob Baxter says England international Sam Simmonds will leave Exeter with the club’s blessing.

Baxter has insisted there are no issues surrounding back-row forward Simmonds’ move to French champions Montpellier next season.

He is expected to be available for next year’s World Cup but after that will be ineligible to represent his country.

Saracens boss Mark McCall said on Tuesday that he believes the departure overseas of a player in his prime has wider implications for the Gallagher Premiership.

“I say that because Sam is 27, nearing his peak and is now making himself ineligible for England,” McCall said. “I kind of understand someone who is early 30s doing it after they’ve had their international career and want to experience something different. But to start losing the best young talent in the Premiership, someone like Sam, is a worry.”

Exeter rugby director Baxter, though, has adopted a philosophical stance.

“I think people sometimes get the wrong idea about this,” Baxter said. “I talk a lot to the players and staff in that you want people to be in an environment where they can thrive, work very hard, you want them to win and be successful for each other.

“The outcome of that is it means they are attractive propositions for other clubs who want a bit of that success. There are going to be some outcomes, and some of those are going to be that they are going to get big contract offers.

“It is not a negative when a player leaves you because someone wants them and can afford to pay them more than you can. It is negative when you fall out and a person moves for no positive reason at all. It’s very rare that happens here.

“Sam goes with our blessing for a great adventure, a great opportunity in France. He has still got a lot of good rugby left in him, and we had a long chat about it. He came to us first and explained. We haven’t been in massive, long, drawn-out contract debates about it. The figures are so far apart that there hasn’t really been a debate.”

The dire finances of Premiership clubs have resulted in the salary cap being reduced to £5million.

And, while necessary, reduced wages on offer to players has made it increasingly difficult for English clubs to compete with sides in France and Japan. The fear is that other members of Eddie Jones’ Test squad will follow Simmonds overseas.

The cap for Premiership clubs is due to return to £6.4m for the 2024-45 season.

Baxter added: “Even in the £6.4m cap, you could lose players, particularly to France. I suppose with a £5m cap, all of a sudden the attraction of staying in England lessens a little bit because of the difference in the figures.

“There is another argument that if England paid them more per game – that will cause some debate because England players are pretty well paid compared to some other nations – but that’s another way of bridging the gap. Players add up the whole package.

“It’s a challenge, and something that is going to happen for a little bit. But it is not keeping me awake at night. You have got to keep rolling.”

Content & Images from – Exeter Chiefs Rugby

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