Harlequins hooker Sam Riley on scoring tries for the England U20s and how the Quins’ style of play has him feeling at home in the national side
Having claimed four tries in three games for England U20 during this year’s belated Six Nations, the promising young hooker is relishing his chance to shine on the national stage in a style that feels at home.
“The first game I obviously came from the bench.” Riley said when reviewing his tournament to date. “We were losing 19-3, so we kind of needed to turn things around and we have a big focus on the set-piece and lineout. I think there were a few penalties that we won and stuck in the corner, then we just drilled away with our set-piece and I got on the end of it twice.
“So I was kind of lucky with that, but it was a nice comeback for the lads. Then the second game, I luckily got to start after the game before. I loved it, I just got my hands on the ball. I could have had another try but I passed it for some reason!
“But it was good, just to get my hands on the ball with a bit of running rugby at a pretty decent standard. Then to get a try there with a bit of a line break was real nice. I’m not sure my lungs appreciated it though…
“I got Player of the Match for that one, which was really surprising but I was happy with it.
“I was lucky enough to get another start last week against Ireland. We knew it was going to be a tough challenge. I think we fronted up physically and just started flying out the blocks. It was definitely a pivotal moment at half-time.
“We played a bit more ball-in-hand, had a solid scrum at set-piece. I can’t say I did much in it. It was more the props! And then I got on the end of it again for a score off a driving maul. It’s been good; tiring.”
What’s it been like going into the national camp versus being with Harlequins?
“It’s different in terms of the plays you run, the lineouts you run. It’s a different challenge in that sense. You have different coaches, different opinions. Things like that you can take loads of learnings from everyone in drips and drabs and you can use it to get better.
“I feel like this U20s team, through the age groups, it suits Quins’ style of rugby a little more with that open style of play. Obviously you have that set-piece dominance which Quins have shown recently, but they show that they can pull the trigger and play fancy rugby. I think this U20s side definitely has that and there’s been glimpses of it. There’s definitely more to come.”
So that training at Quins feels familiar in training at England?
“I think in any team there’s going to be structure and you have to fit into that. But when it comes to ball-in-hand, everyone has an innate rugby ability with what they can do. I think at Quins it’s been developed so much through the way they play at a young age. In the academy they want you to throw the ball around. That offload you throw that could come off could be the difference between scoring a try and winning a final.
“I think some of the offloads and carries from last weekend [in Harlequins Gallagher Premiership final win] kind of proved that. Playing at the edge against the champions and winning the title.”
How’s the rest of the tournament looking for you?
“So we’ve got Wales next, then Italy. I think Wales will be a huge challenge. We’ve played them before and they were very good. They’re very good at the breakdown.
“I think in these tournaments you can’t take anything for granted. You can’t think ‘because this person beat this person, you’re going to win.’. Everyone is going to bring their A Game and the majority of people want to beat England, badly. They’ll definitely turn up, so we need to turn up and be physical, be clinical and hopefully put in a performance like we did against Ireland.”