England U20s: Archie McParland - Northampton Saints' Youngest Ever Player Is Igniting the U20 Six Nations - Ruck

England U20s: Archie McParland – Northampton Saints’ Youngest Ever Player Is Igniting the U20 Six Nations

The U20 Six Nations has kicked into top gear, and England are eyeing up a Grand Slam following impressive wins over Italy, Wales and Scotland. Following the same schedule as the senior squad, the U20s men have been in formidable form, with coaches Mark Mapletoft and Andy Titterrell at the reins of the side.

One of the most recent breakouts onto the England U20s stage, scrum-half Archie McParland had his debut delayed at the final moment whilst out in Treviso. Having been picked to lead in the nine jersey for England’s U20’s Six Nations opener against Italy, McParland suffered a case of tonsilitus in the run up to the game, and made the decision to withdraw himself from the squad during the warm-up preparations.

“Yeah, really unfortunate. So built up all the week all going well, and then sort of feel a bit down going into Friday, and then on Friday I just felt really really rough. And then I had to make a decision going on into the game. So did the warm up and I had to make a very hard decision to pull out because I had tonsillitis, I really just felt very rough I didn’t want to let down the lads. I thought the best choice was to pull out, all good now.”

“It’s always an honour to play for England and you know it’s a massive build up, first game and i’d have been injured for six weeks now and so I’ve been sort of looking ahead to this game for quite some time. And then you know, to not play it was really hard especially, with my family coming out to watch with them in the crowd, and you’re just feeling awful and it’s very hard decision to make. I’m always there to do the best in the team, and that decision to pull out was definitely the best because I wouldn’t have been able to give 100%.”

“I put on a coat and blanket and headed outside to watch towards the sideline to give them support.”

McParland has since made his debut, and marked his maiden England U20s appearence with a try against Wales. In what was a highly anticipated first cap, McParland’s Northampton and England teammate Craig Wright discussed the halfback’s accomplishment.

“It was a big responsibility for him the decision which he did. Again (he’s) just kind of been really easy (to work with), he’s a good player, I’ve played with him before, thought he played really well (against Wales), and we knew that when play together in the starting XV, he’s a good player, he just does what he needs to do, he’s awesome.”

England U20s Pathway Coach Andy Titterrell echoed Wright’s thoughts, in what was a significant milestone for the young scrum half.

“He got the opportunity against Wales, he’s obviously not played for a good period of time, yes and he got over for a try. There’s things that he would have needed to gone away and worked on for this week (Scotland game). I think the more that he plays, the more that he goes back into I guess his form that he had. Look he’s an exceptional player, an exciting player”

Like the England senior squad, there are numerous Northampton Saints talents populating the ranks of the England U20s side. McParland is steadily progressing at Franklin’s Gardens, along with the likes of impressive hooker Craig Wright and exciting back-row talent Henry Pollock. One of the most talked about young players in the Premiership, McParland spoke about the continued growth of the Saints academy, and how he and Pollock have grown up through the age groups together.

“He’s a great friend of mine. We’ve been together since the age of 15. And we’ve been in school together, sort of together the whole way. So we’ve built a great friendship. And it’s great to see him doing really well. I hope our pathways keep on improving together. It’s great to see him going well and doing well at the weekend.”

“I think I think the pathway is definitely a strong aspect of the Saints. The quality of coaches in the pathway, I’m not too sure on other pathways, but all I’ve seen is that quality of coaching has been very good. I think that’s been massive, where we’ve improved, so very good I think.”

McParland’s progression into the Northampton first team came at a rapid pace, as the scrum half made history upon his senior team debut. Pulling on the famous green, yellow and black in a Premiership Rugby Cup game against London Irish, McParland became the youngest ever Northampton Saints player last season, aged just 17-years and 222 days old. Speaking on the impressive accomplishment, McParland said;

“Being in school and being in lessons, and then being around my friends at school and having to head off down to the Brentford Stadium to play London Irish. It’s really weird. I never thought it would come that early to make my debut. It is massive honor and a massive stepping stone. Which I’m really, really happy to have made. So it was a year and a bit ago, so looking forward now to keep on improving and reaching the next stepping stone.”

McParland is certainly in good company down at cinch Stadium, as he plies his halfback trade alongside the likes of England’s Alex Mitchell. Speaking on the scrum half, McParland discussed how despite his unorthodox route to becoming England’s leading name at nine, he always gets excited to see his teammate put forward for test match selection.

“Yeah I mean he’s (Alex Mitchell) very good player. Definitely one of his strengths is speed of pass, accuracy. We do skill sessions at Saints quite a lot, and so competing with him is quite nice. You get to see where you need to get to, to become a world class nine. Definitely still lots to improve on my behalf. It’s a very fortunate position to be competing against one of the best nines in England.”

“There’s always going to excitement hearing around selection, or if you get an injury (Jack van Poortvliet injury ahead of the Rugby World Cup). But there’s never a closed door, you can always come back, improve, and then in his case he got unfortunate of (World Cup) selection at the start and then got quite lucky with an injury. Now he isn’t cemented, but he’s now showing what he can do. And he’s you know, he’s in the squad all the time now.