Arundell shows his promise on England debut

Henry Arundell came off the bench to mark his Twickenham and Six Nations debut with a try – offering a tantalising glimpse of what the future might hold for the thrilling London Irish full back.

So much is expected of the 20-year-old, who announced his arrival in professional rugby last season with a length-of-the-field try against Toulon in the Challenge Cup and then scored with his first touch for England in a Test match in Perth.

Those who have seen him in full flight will testify that he has speed to burn.

Arundell seemed more than ready to take his place immediately in an England now needing to rebuild under Steve Borthwick following the autumn dismissal of Eddie Jones, but he is just coming back from a bad foot and ankle injury suffered in November, so has had to wait for his moment.

He came on for Exiles team-mate Ollie Hassell-Collins – who was earning his second cap following his own debut against Scotland last week – and managed to produce one of the standout moments in what was an otherwise unspectacular, workmanlike 31-14 victory over Italy on Sunday.

He burst through near the left corner flag after being found by another bright young thing coming on as a replacement, Northampton’s Alex Mitchell, and that Next Gen moment lifted some of the gloom still lingering from last week’s hugely disappointing Calcutta Cup defeat to the Scots.

When Arundell was introduced on 55 minutes, Danny Care, a man steeped in Harlequins and England history, declared on Twitter: “This is the guy you pay money to see. He is X-factor.”

Care added he hoped England could get the ball to him in the remaining minutes, and they did. His was the last of five tries.

Paula Timpson, the London Irish physio can take a bow for her part in nursing the exciting talent back to health so quickly, though she said this week she had trouble holding him back from returning too soon.

“He’s very fast and a gifted athlete, so you’re not just returning someone to function, but to perform,” she said. “He’s very mature. It’s rare for someone of his age.”

Arundell was first called up to an England training camp by Jones on the basis of just six Premiership games. Hopefully, the weight of outrageous early expectation will not press too heavily on his shoulders.

It is perhaps a sign of a slight power-shift in west London that Exiles players are making such an impression this season – arguably even more than their traditionally stronger rivals down the road at the Stoop.

Arundell and Hassell-Collins were two of four players from the Gtech involved at the weekend, with the Italians fielding centre Luca Morisi and front row Danilo Fischetti. Between them they now boast 68 caps.

England’s sole Harlequins representative in the stating XV was Alex Dombrandt, who had a sound game amid a dominant home pack.

Marcus Smith, slightly out of sorts last week, was dropped to allow skipper Owen Farrell to resume fly-half duties – the pair just do not seem to operate well together – although Smith did emerge from the bench late on to earn his 19th cap and will surely come good again.
Uncapped Quins hooker Jack Walker was on replacement duty, as he was in last year’s trip to Australia.
For Italy, Tommasso Allan earned his 68th cap. The Harlequins player kicked two conversions for the visitors, who played some fine rugby in the second half, without ever threatening to deny Borthwick a first win as England head coach.