Twenty-two year old flanker Joe Trayfoot is a perfect example of the home-grown succession strategy at Harlequins. With the international period leaving Quins without their England stars, Trayfoot has stepped into the breach and performed superbly.
After a brief LV= Cup sojourn, all eyes return to the Premiership this weekend, and Trayfoot featured in his team’s last fixture in that competition, an impressive victory over Leicester Tigers, their opponents of the Premiership Final back in the 2011-2012 season. The fact that the win came away at Welford Road made the taste of victory that much sweeter. Trayfoot, making only his second start of the season, was not shy to divulge the importance of such a win for his team.
“Obviously it’s great to get the win – especially against a great team like the Tigers,” he said. “It is fantastic to play in a match like that and come out with a victory. All the boys were really happy.”
Trayfoot went on to emphasise the atmosphere of Welford Road, one of the most difficult grounds to visit in English Rugby.
“They are a very hostile crowd,” he remarked with a chuckle. “It’s a hard place to go and play because you know their home support will get behind them so much, especially for the set piece. But we managed to keep them as quiet as possible.”
The win puts Harlequins into fifth place, one ahead of Leicester, in what is gearing up to be one of the tightest Premiership seasons in recent years, with only four points separating third from seventh.
These days, there are no ‘easy’ games within the Premiership, and as proven that weekend, home advantage is no longer a divine passport to victory, a point which Trayfoot was eager to acknowledge.
“In the Premiership, anything can happen,” he noted. “It’s reasonably tight at the top of the table. The game is based around a mental mind set. Whoever you play, whichever team is more up for it has a better chance of winning it.”
When asked about the Autumn Internationals and their effect on the Premiership, Trayfoot believes that although the competition unavoidably changes, Harlequins themselves are not affected by the loss of their international contingent.
“I don’t think our game plan changes at all. We have boys who come in and do a job, and it doesn’t really make a difference. From our point of view it’s good, but when we play other teams, they are going to be missing a few key players, so it can make a difference in some games. For us, we have a good enough squad of guys to step up and fill in the role.”
Trayfoot is just one of several excellent options in the back-row for Harlequins, who boast some of the best strength-in-depth in that department in the Premiership. With the likes of Nick Easter, Luke Wallace, Maurie Fa’asavalu and Chris Robshaw, game time for Trayfoot has not been as forthcoming as he might have liked. Despite this, Trayfoot has acknowledged the benefits of understudying such prolific figures.
“Obviously every sportsman wants to be playing every week, so it can be frustrating,” he admitted. “But also, I have to realise I’m a young guy and the other guys are older and more experienced. My place will come eventually, if I keep playing well, and it’s great to learn from the senior guys, some of whom have been playing professionally for over ten years.”
The young flanker was full of praise for his club captain Robshaw especially: “All the guys respect him, he is a really good bloke. He is a pivotal part of the club, and he has huge influence over the guys.”
With regards to Harlequins’ prospects this season – which looked gloomy but are gradually starting to brighten – Trayfoot was eager to emphasise the belief that resides in his squad. “We can play well and have great strength in depth, and we are definitely aiming for top four. I believe we can make the final if we just stick to our game plan.”
Joe Trayfoot was speaking on behalf of PhD Nutrition, official performance supplier of Harlequins, who helped launch a new pre-workout formula VMX2. For more information about this new product and the rest of the range, please visit www.phd-supplements.com.
By Will Taylor (@wtaylor91)
Title image by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images