Tuesday May 14, 2024

'I think we kind of really all bought into that' - Henry Pollock discusses U20 Six Nations triumph

In Rugby there are few non negotiables when it comes to success at the highest level, key among them is a willingness to set a physical tone for which your teammates can follow.


At the coal face of our beautiful gladiatorial sport is the backrow, a trio of the most physical, gutsy, and often times most talented players on a team.

Tearing through opponents in both attack and defence and always at the heart of the action, it is unsurprising that some of the greatest names in the history books are backrow players.

One only has to look at the past four Rugby World Cups to see that the most influential players have come from this position group. Leading their respective nations to back-to-back titles, New Zealand’s Richie McCaw and South Africa’s Siya Kolisi were not only crucial leaders but tone-setters for their team’s ultimate success.

Adding further weight to the influence this position group has had and continues to have in the modern game is the fact that nine of the twenty-three recipients of the ‘World Player Of The Year’ award have been backrow players.

Over the past decade, names such as Save, Du Toit, van der Flier and Lawes have dominated the stats sheets in some of the biggest games on the rugby calendar.

Six U20 Six Nations backrow players who will be stars at the 2027 RWC

Thus, when an undeniable talent in arguably the sport’s most competitive position stands head and shoulders above the rest at U20 level, the sport’s talking heads will wax lyrical about their potential future impact.

In 2024 no U20 player is more exciting or more spoken about than Northampton Saints and England U20 star Henry Pollock.


Recently crowned as the 2024 U20 Six Nations Player Of The Championship, Pollock, who scored a hattrick on his England debut, has shown resilience to park all of the noise and focus on his game.

Catching up with the 19-year-old, RugbyDump asked Pollock about the recent recognition he has received for his performances throughout the championship. Responding in a way that immediately shows why his teammate’s hold him in such high regard. Pollock acknowledged his pride at receiving the award but deflected the credit towards those around him.

“I’m honoured to receive the award for U20 player of the tournament. I want to thank the coaches and my teammates, as it was a squad effort.

“It was an amazing tournament to be part of, and we are now looking ahead and excited for the World Championship this summer,” Pollock said.


This ability to not get sucked into the growing hype surrounding him but instead focus on the challenge at hand is immediately evident when discussing rise to date.

When asked about his team’s exceptional U20 Six Nations Championship, Pollock was reflective when discussing just how tight knit the group had become throughout the campaign.

“It was a great campaign for myself and also the team. We spoke about the brotherhood aspect of it, and I think we kind of really all bought into that, and we’re such a tight group.

“Even though we haven’t been in camp recently, we’re still talking, and every time we’re in someone else’s kind of home area, we meet up with them, and it’s really nice.

“It was a very special couple of months, and I just kind of want to relive it because it’s something that doesn’t really happen that much. The squad was amazing, and loads of boys contributed, even the ones who didn’t play in that final squad and didn’t get to go celebrate; so it was definitely a full squad effort, so credit to the coaches and to the squad.”

For those who followed the team’s progress, this togetherness was never more evident than in their final two fixtures. Facing an all-conquering Ireland set-up that had claimed the previous two Grand Slams, England showed their quality to secure a remarkable draw in what was a shootout for the ages. Played in front of a raucous crowd at the home of Bath Rugby ‘The Rec’, Pollock and his teammates fed on the energy of the crowd.

“It’s exciting, you know, to be able to play both of them (Ireland and Wales) at home at the packed-out Rec was special. We talked about it in the weeks building up to the games, how special it was and how those kinds of moments don’t come that often.”

Displaying a never-say-die attitude a week later, England put on perhaps the greatest performance in U20 Six Nations history as they offset a significant deficit to turn over a highly experienced French side on the road.

Falling behind 21 – 5 inside 35 minutes, many feared the title may elude Pollock and his teammates. Yet, as they had shown throughout the campaign, this team performed best when their backs were on the wall. From what looked like a dire situation, England would rally to secure arguably their greatest ever result at U20 level by securing a 45 – 31 win and with it the title.

Parking the Six Nations for just a moment whilst peering ahead at what is to come later this season. Pollock offered insight into the excitement that is building around this England side as they get set to take on the world’s best in South Africa at the World Rugby U20 Championship.

Tapping into their experiences from this season’s Championship, Pollock and his teammate’s will be galvanised by what they have achieved to date. On the other hand they remain realistic that in South Africa the process starts again with a new competition.

“It’s a new challenge, and we as a squad are going to be taking a lot of confidence from the Six Nations, but at the same time, we don’t want to get too over excited and that kind of thing.

“We just kind of stick to our process and stick to getting better each game. And hopefully, you know, if all goes well, then yeah, we might see something happen.”

Before their dive south of the equator, England will take a trip off the beaten path with a tour to Georgia, where they will face one of the most improved U20 outfits in the world.

Utilising this opportunity as a pre-World Championship training camp against a physical side, Pollock is relishing the challenge of testing himself against unfamiliar opposition.

“Nothing’s been set in stone so far, but we’ve got a couple of camps coming up in the near future, and I think it’s been released now that we’ve got a tour to Georgia. So, we’re going out to Georgia.

“The boys that went last year said it was a good experience, and apparently, it’s pretty hot out there.

“It’s good to promote the tier two rugby nations and look they’ve been, doing really.

“It’s going to be a good challenge. They’ll definitely be physical; they’ve got some big ball carriers and big fellas around the park, and we’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be a good couple of weeks, or however long it is.  The tour will be good for team bonding and almost mimicking the World Cup out there.

“We will be looking to pick up from where we left off with the Six Nations, so I think everyone’s very excited about it.

“We’re such a tight group, and hopefully, you know, we’ll pick up where we left off from there and take into the World Cup.”

Before all of this international excitement, Pollock along with his Saints teammate’s have a Gallagher Premiership title to chase.

Having come agonisingly close to downing Leinster at Croke Park in the Investec Champions Cup semi-finals, Saints are rightly regarded as one of the most exciting and improved squads in European club rugby.

Discussing what makes the Saints set-up so special, Pollock said, “It’s really good, and you know, it’s always good being in an environment where you’re winning. The boys have done really well, and we’ve worked really hard as a squad over the last season to get to where we are now; it’s showing, and we talk about how good the squad depth is.

“We always talk about our training standards and how that is and to get the experience of playing alongside the likes of Courts (Courtney Lawes) and just kind of being a sponge and trying to absorb as much as I can from them because they’re pretty exceptional players themselves.”

Focusing on Lawes and the other top-quality backrows at the club, Pollock explains how fortunate he is to have them as resources to call upon when needed.

“Of course, Courts kind of holds himself to himself, but we’ve had little chats here and there.  He’s been really good, and having someone like him in that environment is pretty cool.

“And same with Lewis Ludlam and people who aren’t even playing at the minute. Tom Pearson is pretty cool as he’s obviously a rising star at the minute, and he’s doing pretty well. So, yeah, I know we’ve got some great depth and some great characters in the squad that are really showing on the pitch and off the pitch.”

Having made his Premiership debut earlier this season against arch-rivals the Leicester Tigers, Pollock said the moment was ‘surreal’ and an experience that he won’t easily forget.

“It was pretty surreal; I got a late call-up in the week because a couple of boys dropped out injured. It was special, and getting as much time as I did in thirty minutes was pretty cool. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win, but it was a really good experience for me, and I was really grateful for it.”

Looking slightly ahead to his future with the club, the driven youngster is keen to make his impact felt but trusts the processes being put in place by the club to help fulfil his true potential.

“Yeah, so post Six Nations, we sat down with some of the coaches at Saints, and they just spoke about what the goals were. So I went to Bedford for a stint and had two games at Bedford, and now I’m on this kind of five/six-week gym program, so they’re limiting the amount I run and getting me in the gym doing exercise sessions.”

“I’m just trying to get a bit of bulk on me in preparation for next season. So kind of looking ahead into that, and it’s been really exciting, and the coaches have been really good, so I’m enjoying it so far.”

“I’ve had chats with some of the coaches, and I think the goal is to play a bit of Prem next year. But if I’m not quite ready for that yet, then I’m happy to go back to Bedford and kind of go wherever they put me.”

“I’ve got so much trust in the coaches at Saints, and I’m trusting that wherever I play, they don’t think that’s the best way for my development. So, I’m really just taking it step by step, and I haven’t looked too far ahead.”

Utilising his experience with one of the Premiership’s high-flying clubs, Pollock is looking to parlay all that he has learnt into a top-quality showing in South Africa later this season.

“I’d probably say the training standards; I think the way that we have been training at Saints is the credit to how we perform on the weekends. The training standards have been very good all year, and It’s been showing. So, I think that’s something that maybe we can take into the 20s championship.

“I know it’s kind of a short turnaround, so you probably won’t get as many sessions a week as you would do here, so that’s probably something that I’d probably think about taking into the World Championship.”






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