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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





Sale Sharks have agreed a deal to sign Fiji captain Waisea Nayacalevu from French Top14 side Toulon. 

The explosive centre, who starred for his country during the recent World Cup, has signed a one-year contract with an option for a further year. 

He will join up with Alex Sanderson’s Sharks squad ahead of the start of the 2024/25 Gallagher Premiership season. 

Waisea, 33, said: “I’ve watched the Premiership for a long time and it’s always been in the back of my mind that I would love to play there one day and experience rugby in England. 

“Now that opportunity has arrived and I’m really, really happy and grateful. I’m so excited to get over there and join the boys and see how I can contribute to the team. 

“I have spoken to Telusa Veainu and he only has positive things to say about the club and about Manchester. 

“I’m looking forward to playing with some of the guys I’ve played against, like Tom Curry and George Ford. But I also know there are a lot of really talented young players in the Sale Sharks squad and I’m excited to share my experience and help them develop as much as I can.  

“I told Alex that it’s what I’ve been doing for the last few years of my career and it’s something I’m passionate about.” 

Nayacalevu, who stands at 6’4” and weighs in at 16st 7lb, spent ten years at Top14 side Stade Français before making the switch to Toulon in 2022.  

He has won 34 caps for Fiji, slotting in at both centre and on the wing, and captained his country at last year’s World Cup, where the Pacific Islanders made the quarter-finals, losing 30-24 to England in Marseille. 

He also famously scored for Fiji in their memorable pre-World Cup win against England at Twickenham. 

Images & Content from Sale Sharks Rugby

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Falcons star to join Saracens



Phil Brantingham to join Saracens

Tuesday 05 March 2024 Written by: Tom Grisedale

Prop-forward Phil Brantingham will leave Newcastle Falcons in the summer to join Saracens.

The 22-year-old has played 25 games for his home town club, and leaves with the thanks and best wishes of everyone at the Falcons.

Chairman of rugby Matt Thompson said: “Phil has done well for us and we made him a good offer to stay here.

“We respect his decision and wish him all the best for his move in the summer, but between now and then he will be fully committed to finishing the season strongly for Newcastle Falcons.”

Source – Newcastle Falcons Rugby

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Sale Sharks can confirm that forward Cobus Wiese will leave the club at the end of the season to return to South Africa. 

The 26-year-old lock has played almost 80 games for the club and scored five tries since joining from the DHL Stormers ahead of the 2020/21 season. 

He played a key role last year as Sale reached the Premiership final, and this season he has featured a further 13 times for Alex Sanderson’s side. 

Alex said: “Cobus will be missed by all of us on so many levels. He’s the most polite and courteous of people off the field, but the most wildly excitable man on the field, and on a night out. 

“To say Cobus wears his heart on his sleeve is to do him a disservice with regards to his emotional commitment for which his body has paid the price on occasion.  

“He leads by example and has earnt the respect and adoration of the group both on a professional and a personal level. We wish him every success and happiness with his move back home.” 

Everyone at Sale Sharks would like to thank Cobus for his contribution to the club and the team during his time here and we wish him all the very best for the future.  

Images & Content from Sale Sharks Rugby

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