Henry Arundell’s habit of scoring wonder tries is starting to get out of hand. The 19-year-old back from London Irish already had a chip-and-chase score against Wasps and his outrageous 90-metre break against Toulon in the Challenge Cup under his belt this season, but with his first touch on his England debut in Perth, Arundell announced himself to the world.
Even his team-mates could not quite believe their eyes as the first player named as an apprentice to be capped by England in the same series scored. “[Tom] Curry said, ‘He’s going to score that’. I think it was a bit of sarcastic comment and he actually did,” Ellis Genge, the England prop, said afterwards from his view on the bench.
Eddie Jones went one step further, comparing Arundell’s impact to one of Australia’s greatest players.
“David Campese, he did something like that in his first Test. I am loath to compare him to Campese but if he keeps working hard in Test rugby he is going to be some sort of a player,” the England head coach said.
While it did not affect the result, Arundell’s debut try truly was a moment to savour. Collecting Freddie Steward’s pass, Arundell’s footwork left Andrew Kellaway and a covering Noah Lolesio confused how to handle the looming threat. Arundell’s pace is well known but it was the lesser heralded strengths to his game which impressed, having the footwork to make the Wallabies hesitate and the power to get through Kellaway and Lolesio’s double tackle.
James O’Connor - who hours earlier had been in a suit chatting to hospitality guests, not expecting to play until Quade Cooper’s late injury in the warm-up - now found himself trying to tackle an accelerating Arundell and was subsequently beaten around the outside for pace. It was an astonishing try from a young player who only seems to produce scores out of the top draw.
Jones and England clearly do not want to over-expose Arundell, yet when he comes on and creates an outstanding score out of nothing the hype train has already well and truly left the station.
By starting Arundell against Australia - what a wild statement that would have seemed a few months ago - England would inject some much-needed speed into a back line which has felt sluggish throughout the year. With Jonny May’s status uncertain after testing positive for Covid-19, that injection of pace can come from a young talent who only joined London Irish’s senior academy last summer and made his Premiership debut in February.
The case for him to start and to give a blunt England attack some desperately needed threat is a strong one.