Ahead of his first St. Patrick’s Party fixture, the returning Henry Arundell described his happiness to be back in Irish colours ahead of the visit of Northampton Saints.
The 20-year-old earned his first senior international start over the Guinness Six Nations period, making his sixth appearance for Irish this season in a win against Harlequins before being absorbed into the England fold.
Arundell, whose time on the pitch as an Irish player was also interrupted by an enforced period of three months due to injury, is itching to go for Irish’s biggest fixture of the year, stating he feels like he’s “back home.”
Reflecting on his time with Steve Borthwick’s set-up, Arundell recalled his first involvement in Six Nations action fondly alongside Clubmate Ollie Hassell-Collins.
“It was quite a weird one, I was injured for three months throughout that whole winter period and only returned for that one Quins game, which was a great win at Brentford,” Arundell told.
“After coming off the bench, I was straight into camp then the following days after, so it was quite full-on but it’s exactly where you want to be as an English player.
“I was lucky enough to play in four of the five games and got my first start which was quite special, I loved it despite some of the results being quite difficult.
“Then again, it’s the start of a rebuild and that’s something we are quite familiar with at Irish and we’re seeing the benefits of that in the Premiership now.
“You have to be brave with rebuilds, it’s a difficult time for England but we’ll try new things and learn to play a new way with new faces.
“Having Ollie [Hassell-Collins] in camp with me was class; he’s been deserving of that for quite a while, having him in as one of those new faces was brilliant because he’s a quality player and you he’s such a great bloke as well.”
The rollercoaster trajectory of Arundell’s season of injuries and international involvements may have deterred his motivation or belief to make a return back to involvement in rugby.
Nevertheless, the youngster is pleased with the personal progress made this term, with a previous serious muscle injury aiding in his psychological approach to his recent time away from the field.
“I’m happy with how my rugby’s going,” he stated.
“The season started really well, I was getting a run of games and it was great to be a part of that back line with [Ben] Loader and Ollie [Hassell-Collins] – we were going really well and were showing what we could do against any team.
“When I got injured in that Gloucester game, I was quite gutted at the time and ended up missing out on the Autumn Nations Series.
“I’ve had quite a big injury before, so I knew I could come back better, I could come back stronger and I knew there was a new challenge when Steve [Borthwick] got the job.
Arundell tells of the moment he had initial contact with the new England boss, with the former praising the latter for his staggered approach to return to rugby.
“He called me during Christmas time when I had some time off from injury, and he said ‘I want you involved in the Six Nations and I want you to come back ready to play’, so my goal was to get fit and come back for Irish, not necessarily playing one game and go straight into the Six Nations.
“It was more about working towards the France or Ireland games.
“But Steve was so good and he didn’t rush me, he put me on the bench until Ireland to let me back into it because that step up from Premiership to international rugby is immense, in terms of speed, physicality and fitness.
“It was weird not being at the Club for a while, so Declan [Kidney] and Les [Kiss] were quite clear it’s about embedding back in now and not forcing anything and I can go at it at the back-end of the season.”
Being back on home turf this week has quenched a feeling of wanting for Arundell to be back and being part of playing rugby with Irish.
“I’ve always loved playing for this Club, but being away for this long, the injury on top of it and playing the 20 minutes against Quins has left me with this feeling of wanting to play for Irish.
“I was in camp a few weeks ago thinking ‘I cannot wait to be back’.
“Playing for your country is incredible, but playing with your best mates at a Club you’ve grown up in is almost just as special.
“I just missed the Club to be honest, it feels so much more different when you come back and it feels like home.
“The guys have been playing so well in the team that it’s nice we have that competition and it’s healthy for everyone.”
Arundell is one of the predominant orchestrators of free-flowing rugby in the Exiles squad, and a meeting of like-minded sides in Irish and Northampton awaits him on his comeback to Irish.
The outside back anticipates a watchable encounter and projects a sense of confidence in Irish’s style heading into the remaining fixtures.
“A lot of Saints boys were in the England camp, and there were quite a few questions about who was going to play.
“This will be my first St. Patrick’s Party game, and I know the mindset for them will be to come and spoil the party but we have said this week that this is our home and we’ve proven over and over again that the Gtech is a difficult place to win.
“In terms of the rugby, it will be two similar teams with a lot of fast-paced and hopefully one of the more exciting games that happens in the Premiership.
“It should go down to the full 80 minutes, it will be exciting, and I hope the fans enjoy it.
“Our team and our culture created by Declan, Les and Brad [Davis] is that electric rugby that has become our identity.
“We’re a very fit side, we play fast-paced and we like to throw the ball around; some teams won’t like that risk, but sometimes if you don’t chance that risk then you won’t get the rewards.
“We have shown that we can go up against the best teams in the competition and beat them playing our style, not forcing a different type of game plan.
“It’s reassuring we have the guts to do that and have that backing from coaches.”
With the run-in intensifying in the final stretch of the season, Arundell is savouring the competitive nature of the remaining set of fixtures he and the Club face.
“You only get so many years in your career, and nothing is guaranteed in the amount of opportunities you get going for these places to go and do something.
“This is where you want to be.
“Some teams may shy away from it, but with what we have at the Club it’s go time, and we want to do something special.”