"In-House Competition" - Joe Carpenter: Sale Fullback Called Up for England Tour with Best Friend Tom Roebuck - Ruck

“In-House Competition” – Joe Carpenter: Sale Fullback Called Up for England Tour with Best Friend Tom Roebuck

There are six uncapped players in Steve Borthwick’s England squad for the upcoming Summer tour, and the sextet of talents are all eager to make their debuts against either Japan or New Zealand. Amongst the group is Sale Sharks fullback Joe Carpenter, who has become one of the most talked about young stars from the Premiership.

Carpenter’s breakthrough with the Sharks came in the 2022/23 season, and despite just being 21-years old, he had the full support of Sale Director of Rugby Alex Sanderson to claim the 15 jersey as his own. Carpenter would go on to start 22 out of 23 fixtures that season, and contributed seven tries as Sale battled their way to the Premiership Final. Carpenter would not be deterred despite the eventual defeat to Saracens, and was once again firing on all cylinders for the latest Premiership campaign.

Joe Carpenter of Sale Sharks on the break during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Semi Final Match between Bath Rugby and Sale Sharks at the Recreation Ground on 1 June 2024. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

The young fullback joined up with the England squad following Sale’s Premiership semi-final defeat to Bath, and has since been retained in the squad for the trip to Japan. Speaking for the first time in an England rugby media session, Carpenter gave thanks to Alex Sanderson for his belief in him, and for the platform to earn a call-up to the England squad.

“I think trust is probably the biggest word. He’s trusted me to play in the first team for two years now. And I can say that about a lot of the other younger boys coming through the academy, I think we had five starters, in the final last year, there were 23 and below, so, my (school) year or the year above.

“It’s been the same this year, just backing up the young lads to perform. He gives us confidence and ultimately we can build our confidence up, which helps us go and perform at the high level.”

Joe Carpenter of Sale Sharks on the break past Ollie Lawrence of Bath Rugby during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Semi Final Match between Bath Rugby and Sale Sharks at the Recreation Ground on 1 June 2024. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

Carpenter then shared Sanderson’s parting message, as he sent the fullback down South to join up with the England squad: “It was just ‘enjoy it. you’re going go in there and excel’, he said, ‘Just enjoy it, enjoy the whole experience and pick up everything you can because ultimately, it’s just going to make you better Whether you go on and get capped or capital, whether you’re in this for five weeks, and you’re just learning and learning’.”

Carpenter has been in the ideal environment to pursue his England goals, as he lines up in a back-three alongside two fellow young and aspiring flyers. Tom Roebuck and Arron Reed have also been included in their respective England and Scotland touring squads, and Sale could well be set for an internationally capped back-three at the start of the 2024/25 season.

“I think it helps us, especially back at Sale, be on each other. We’re all quite good friends. So we can have a laugh and a joke, but ultimately, what we’ve learned here as well, is when you’ve gone wrong, we could drag each other up in those sessions and drive those standards for each other. Because ultimately, we’re all after and chasing the same thing, which is an international cap. So it’s definitely good to have all three of us in the same sort of scenario.”

Joe Carpenter of Sale Sharks during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Semi Final Match between Bath Rugby and Sale Sharks at the Recreation Ground on 1 June 2024. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

Carpenter and Roebuck are close friends up in the North East, having previously flat-shared together during their time with the Sharks. The pair have a friendly sporting rivalry that pushes each other to improve, with Roebuck first getting an England squad call up during the 2024 Six Nations. However, the wing was unable to make his debut, with the playing field still open between the two friends to be the first to bring an England test cap back to Sale.

“He’s outstanding, really he is one of my best friends, he has been from five years ago when when I joined Sale. To be able to experience this with him, I was that happy for him in the Six Nations obviously, unfortunate not to get capped, but you know, that was the first step for him.

Joe Carpenter of Sale Sharks and Tom Roebuck of Sale Sharks celebrates after winning during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Semi Final Match between Sale Sharks and Leicester Tigers at AJ Bell Stadium on 14 May 2023. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

“For us, too, it is a bit of in house competition, and he managed to get in first which, I was obviously dead chuffed about and loved it for him. But also for me, it was like, ‘how can I make that next step as well.’ This could be the first time that we get together hopefully, many in the future, but we’re both really excited about it.”

Despite now being close friends on and off the pitch, Carpenter and Roebuck began their careers as regional rivals. Whilst Carpenter proudly represented Yorkshire, Roebuck ran out for Cheshire, and the two have had some heated exchanges in many a county level fixture.

“That was where it all started to be fair, but it’s like anything in rugby. What would be your opponent until you actually get to know, them and 95% of the time, everyone’s a nice guy on them and when you do meet them. So yeah, we’ve been dead close since I came to Sale about five years ago.”

Tom Roebuck of Sale Sharks celebrates after winning during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Semi Final Match between Sale Sharks and Leicester Tigers at AJ Bell Stadium on 14 May 2023. Photo: Frankie OKeeffe/PPAUK

Sale fly half George Ford will not be joining his club teammates on tour to Japan, as he suffered an Achilles injury in the Premiership semi-final. Despite the halfback not being in the England squad, Carpenter spoke fondly of how Ford has helped elevate his game to the standard of international contention. Carpenter called Ford ‘the ultimate professional’ in the way he goes about his business, with such attributes bringing the likes of Carpenter and Roebuck up to test match standard.

“He’s the ultimate professional, like I said, he drives standards, he drives execution. And look he’s been in this environment for so long. And bringing it back to Sale has been huge for a lot of us boys, just to understand what level we actually need to be at. try and bridge that gap from Sale to to England.

George Ford of Sale Sharks looks dejected after conceding a penalty try during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final Match between Saracens and Sale Sharks at Twickenham Stadium on 27 May 2023. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

“He is fantastic in terms of trying to pull us up with Him. Ultimately, he wants to win. That’s his mindset. And he wants his team to do as best as possible. And for the boys that he kind of knows coming in around this (England) or thinks have the potential, he wants to drive those standards and make sure that we are at the level he wants us to be up at. Because ultimately, he know’s that on the weekend, if he does that, we’ll probably deliver as well.”

Carpenter capped off his first England media session by discussing his first interactions with head coach Steve Borthwick. Like every other player that steps through the gates at Pennyhill Park, Carpenter has been asked to bring his super strengths with him, with his high ball catching being a focus upon his early days in the England camp.

“What he said for me is that I was massive as a fullback and in the back three, and too dominant that high ball. But not just catching it, also what happens after the post-catch contact, we speak a lot about beating the man.

“As fullbacks if we can beat our first man and get the boys on the front foot and start that momentum, is the start of our attack really. So if we’re catching that and getting a few yards, even if it’s two or three, breaking the line is ideal, that’s what he wants to see from us. Because it just motivates that attack to keep that momentum and score tries at the end of the day.”