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.”