Cadan Murley exclusive: Harlequins’ ‘wake-up call’ and his conversation with England head coach Steve Borthwick

James While
Cadan Murley in action for Harlequins and at England training session.

Cadan Murley in action for Harlequins and at England training session.

Cadan Murley is one of the fan’s favourites. Whenever England squads are mentioned on social media, the advocates for the former U20s flyer speak loud and clear on his behalf, citing his speed and physicality as reasons he should be looked at for Test rugby.

But with his beloved Harlequins suffering a form blip in their loss at home against Saracens last weekend, the young wing’s focus is clearly on the trip to Northampton Saints on Friday night, against a team that he believes share a lot of the attacking ethos that characterises Quins so clearly.

Wake-up call against Saracens

“Saracens was a bit of a wake-up call, I have to admit. Before that loss we were four from five and although we didn’t underestimate them it was, like you said, a bit of a shock to the system in terms of the physicality and the step up,” Murley confirmed.

“So yeah, I think it’s given us a bit of reality check, but we don’t need to reinvent the wheel and it’s key that we don’t need to change anything big other than just the need to up our physicality. We need to know that from minute one to minute 80 we need to be expecting that teams are going to come at us like that. And the boys have responded well in terms of accepting where we were poor. Sure, there were a few heads down after the game but we’ve identified the issues and we’ll go again this weekend.

“Nick Evans has emphasised that it’s key that we don’t go away from the Quins DNA – we always want to be the ones throwing the ball around and we also know we score a lot of tries from the solidity of our set-piece. We want to bring that to our game against Northampton, but that in itself is probably a slightly different challenge.

“It’s an interesting game because I think there’s a bit of a parallel theme here. Saints also got a bit of a wake-up at Mattioli Woods Welford Road in terms of physicality on Saturday and I am sure they’ve probably had a few similar conversations to us this week and it kind of goes without saying that when you’ve got two such free-running back divisions against each other then it’s going to be the grunt work up front and winning those big collisions that will define the outcome of the match,” Murley explained.

Cadan Murley at the Premiership HITZ awards where he was the guest of honour, delivering community rugby achievement recognitions.

Cadan Murley at the Premiership HITZ awards where he was the guest of honour, delivering community rugby achievement recognitions.

“I don’t think I’ve played against Saints when it hasn’t been a high scoring game and I’m really excited to be part of it. But yeah, I think it’ll be won on who can ultimately create the most pressure on defence and turn the ball over and react from that. Obviously, we’ve got Will Evans and Dino Lamb, who’s been playing brilliantly since coming back from international duty with Italy and then there’s Dommers (Alex Dombrandt) doing his stuff in the background. But against them you’ve the quality of Tom Pearson, Courtney Lawes and Lewis Ludlam, so it’s a really tight call to say who’ll come out on top.

“I have to confess there’s a bit of a mutual admiration society between their backline and ours and we respect that they have a similar ethos to us. think, I think we look at some of their planned moves and think ‘Ooooo, we’d like to steal a couple of those’ and they probably think the same about us, so it’s one I always get excited about playing in,” admired Murley.

Personal journey for Murley

“One of the best things about Quins right now is our depth, the talent we’ve got in our squad. With Louis Lynagh and Tyrone Green now fit and players like Oscar Beard and Will Joseph really challenging for starts, the level of training has taken that step up with the ultimate aim to drive everyone to want to get better.

“There’s almost a bit of nervous energy to people because we all know our place isn’t as cemented as it was last season or the season before and there’s boys kicking and chasing at your heels. Everyone’s still has that shared goal of the team wants to get better, but there’s that level of competitiveness and training I haven’t seen for a few years driven for the competition for places.”

Part of Murley’s journey has been the closeness he’s come to an England place, but as of yet, failing to get the full cap his talents so richly deserved. Many believed he might have gone to France but it wasn’t to be.

Murley is quick to explain that whilst disappointed, he’s clear on what he needs to do to improve.

“Yeah, I had a very good chat with Steve when I got sent home. Obviously I was bitterly disappointed and a bit frustrated, but he’s the coach he makes the calls and you’ve got to respect that.

“We had a very open conversation about what I need to improve and what he sees are my strengths. What impressed me was he didn’t focus on perceived weaknesses. He wanted to look at how he could help my strengths improve – my carrying through contact and beating the first defender was one of those qualities mentioned and Steve was like ‘I want to see you do more of it – go get the ball, find it and do your things that make Cadan special’, which is a great message. He cited Jack Nowell, ironically my hero growing up, as the player to watch, how he seeks the ball and so on.”

Cadan Murley was speaking to James While at the Premiership HITZ awards where he was the guest of honour, delivering community rugby achievement recognitions.

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