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Quins move was a no-brainer ...despite rivalry with Irish

There was only one deal WILL JOSEPH wanted when his old club folded

By Alex Bywater

WHEN Will Joseph went on holiday to Ibiza last summer with his then-London Irish teammates, he did so on the back of what was a successful season for both him and his team. As he partied away at the end of a breakthrough campaign, the 21year-old centre could never have foreseen what was to come.

‘There were five of us young boys from Irish who went out,’ Joseph says, now able to look back on a turbulent period with a smile.

‘We thought we still had jobs at that point but when we came back, reality kicked in. I wouldn’t have spent so much money if I’d known what was going to happen!’

Joseph had barely shifted his holiday hangover when he learned that after finishing fifth in the Premiership last season, Irish had followed Worcester and Wasps into financial oblivion.

The club’s descent into administration meant all of Irish’s employees lost their jobs immediately.

‘We had a pretty strong season, just missing out on the top four. We were building nicely and had a talented young group,’ he says. ‘We didn’t believe it [administration] was going to happen but when we got back from Ibiza, we felt like it was pretty much the end.

‘It was tough because I had to focus then on the World Cup preparation camps with England. It was a pretty stressful time.

‘I was fortunate. As soon as Irish went down, I got a move to Harlequins. The uncertainty was harder for players with mortgages and children. A few of my close mates couldn’t find a club and have gone to university.

‘Going from a professional environment back to education is tough. I was lucky. There were a few offers, but I was pretty set on Harlequins.

‘I was really attracted to their style. It was the club I had in mind when Irish went down even though they are a London rival. It was a no-brainer.’

Harlequins’ decision to snap up

Joseph was no surprise given the huge promise he had shown with Irish. His obvious talent was enough for then-England head coach Eddie Jones to hand him an England debut in Australia in 2022.

The younger brother of former

Bath, England and Lions centre Jonathan was a rookie Down Under alongside Henry Arundell — another product of the Irish system.

This afternoon, the two will go head-to-head in a mouthwatering Champions Cup tie in Paris when

Harlequins travel to Arundell’s TOP14 leaders, Racing 92.

‘I had nothing to lose,’ Joseph says, recalling his first England tour. ‘We were in camp before the Barbarians match and Eddie came up and said, “Do you want to hear the good news or the bad?” I can’t really remember what I said! He said, “We’ll start with the bad — you’re not playing against the Barbarians but I’m taking you to Australia”. I was in disbelief.

‘The thought of an international tour at 19 was incredible — something you dream of as a kid. Eddie said to me and Henry, “You’re named as apprentice players but if you train hard and I think you’re ready and good enough, you’ll play”.

‘Jack Willis got injured before the second Test and Eddie put me on the bench. It was a crazy time.

‘There was a lot going through my head — excitement, nerves, disbelief. I was fortunate as I couldn’t overthink it in that amount of time.’

JOSEPH made his Test bow off the bench in Brisbane for his only cap to date. There will surely be more. His graceful running style in midfield is reminiscent of his older brother’s. Both came through the Millfield School system.

Sir Gareth Edwards, Huw Jones and Callum Sheedy are rugby internationals who were educated at Millfield. So too were Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings and Formula One star Lando Norris.

‘The way we run is very similar,’ Joseph says of comparisons with his brother. ‘We play the same position. It’s probably just genetics!

‘In the changing room at Millfield is a plaque with a list of all the top players in your position. In mine, there was my brother and Huw. They’ve had some real talent.’

Joseph was in his house choir at Millfield. He downplays his singing ability but is hitting the right notes with Harlequins. His form this season has meant Quins haven’t missed Joe Marchant too much after his move to France.

After scoring twice against Sale last weekend, Joseph will hope to continue his impressive development against tough French opposition today.

He was part of England’s preparations for the World Cup but didn’t make Steve Borthwick’s final squad, unlike his close friend Arundell.

Both will undoubtedly be key figures for England in future.

‘Henry is an incredible player,’ adds Joseph. ‘I’m sure wherever he’ll be, he’ll be pulling up trees. He’s smashing it.’





dmg media (UK)