Sitting down for his first interview with the Club, London Irish under-18s captain Finn Worley Brady explained the shift in belief in his side this season as they prepare for the Under-18 Academy League fixture against Northampton Saints.
Last year, previous two-time league victors Irish finished ninth overall in the final standings, but a renewed perspective of a collective effort has seen them reverse their fortunes to make a first final berth in three years.
Worley Brady is another off the talent conveyor belt at the Hazelwood Centre, progressing from his first involvements in the Developing Player Programme (DPP) as a 13-year-old to leading the side out this Sunday at the StoneX Stadium.
“Looking back on it now, when I was 13 if I made it to the Silver level of the programme (Under-16), then I would be happy - to get to this point is a special feeling,” the former Teddington RFC youth product and current Bishop Wand student expressed.
Worley-Brady is an alumni of state school Turing House in Richmond, a glowing example of the Club’s inclusive recruitment from all educational institutions.
Despite his career only just taking off in rugby, there is seemingly much more to come from his household with younger brother Louis also a part of the more junior stages of the Academy.
Representing the Club on a stage like Sunday’s naturally evokes strong emotions for the youngster and his family in the run-up to the final.
“Pride is the feeling I would describe it as.
“For some of us, this will be the last time we all pull on the shirt as a collective before we go our separate ways to university and so on.
“To lead the squad out on a special occasion like this Sunday’s is something I’m really proud of.
“I spoke to Jack Pattinson (Junior Academy Lead Coach) at the start of the season about taking the captaincy, and he spoke about having a balance of an air of calmness and being able to fire the boys up.
“Composure was really important too, especially in tricky situations but I have to say though, it’s not just me and there are plenty of leaders in the squad.
“Part of being a leader is knowing when someone can take the reins, and there are players that have different attributes that can help us through as a team.
“It’s a collective effort.”
Now as the captain for the 2022/23 campaign, his relationship with his coach Pattinson has developed even further after his involvement in the under-18s campaign last year.
Worley Brady describes the effect of a synergy in resolve, determination and character that has transferred between coaches of all ages and responsibilities at London Irish.
“It’s a pretty open relationship and I feel like I can talk to him [Pattinson] about anything, whether it’s top do with rugby or not.
“From the start of this season, he’s started to build that role with everyone to be open, and when you have that sort of relationship, it means we can all develop to the best of our abilities.
“It gives you sense of you can say what you want and not feel judged, and he can give feedback which I take on board.
“I definitely would say that one thing I feel that has improved from last year is the belief.
“Declan Kidney has given us a good luck speech and Les Kiss has spoken to us before the match too, Matt Rogerson spoke to us before the Quins game, and those sorts of moments make us feel like the whole Club is behind us.
“It provides another sense of energy and determination going into games.”
As the elected skipper under Pattinson, the 18-year-old shoulders a greater responsibility on the field to guide the group full of confident players in a memorable season.
Irish has managed derby day wins over Harlequins (22-19) and Saracens (21-17), a comeback away victory over Bristol Bears (12-17), all the while losing just once in their six games (Bath, 12-15).
“The last few minutes of the game against Quins was brilliant, we were down at half-time and they were knocking on the door for a while and Kepu [Kepueli Tuipulotu] came and won a turnover that put the game to bed.
“Bristol was another that springs to mind, we scored a try in the last 15 minutes and we managed to hold them out.”
Recalling the squad’s effort over the past six months, Worley Brady comments on the progress within the team that he has helped in overseeing.
“It’s the sense of brotherhood that we have.
“We said in pre-season that was the thing that we pride ourselves on because when it comes down to it, that connection is what you rely on in tough moments like the derby games.
“You’re willing to go that extra mile for the person either side of you, it’s deep sense of connection that I’d say has really come along.
“You have to grab an occasion like this with both hands, and there is a really positive morale going into Sunday.”
With the format of the competition dividing the 14 sides into Northern and Southern Conferences, a novel meeting between Irish and Northampton Saints is in the offing this weekend.
Whether no previous meetings at the under-18 level this year will benefit either side will remain to be seen, but the back-rower is determined to recognise the benefits of the preparation put in by he and the playing group this past week.
“I’d say it is a positive, the fact that we haven’t encountered them this season means that the only thing we can control is ourselves.
“That’s the most positive way to approach it, and the things we do and the way we perform will be the most important thing for a result this weekend.
“They look to play quick off penalties, play front-foot ball, and can also move the ball wide and play quick, but I feel like the work we have done with our defence through this season has really picked up.
“It’s something we take pride in, and hopefully we can deal with that this Sunday.”
Even at such a young age, Worley Brady is conscious to not start dreaming just yet ahead of one of the most important days of he and the boys’ time at Irish, but the importance of a trophy lift was not understated by the skipper.
“A win would be a perfect ending, as it would be the last time together on the pitch for a lot of us and the last time representing the Club.
“We want to create memories for all of us in years to come that we can remember and cherish, and a win would definitely do that.
“This is the moment that we have all been waiting for since we’ve been at the Club.”
London Irish under-18s take on Northampton Saints under-18s in the Premiership Rugby Under-18 Academy League first-place final this Sunday (19th), kicking-off at 7pm.
Entry to the StoneX Stadium is free, and the finals day will be streamed live on the Premiership Rugby YouTube channel.