Harlequins’ Kenningham relishing chance to be local hero in final tie

Quins have been incredibly fun to watch — never more so than in the jaw-dropping semi-final victory over Bristol — and, if you ask anyone involved, it has been incredibly fun to be a part of, too.

It has been a triumph of coaching heterodoxy. Quins have not had a director of rugby since January and have been coached by a committee for six months. The radical structure has seen them revert to a free-wheeling brand of rugby with a mix of veterans from their last — and only — Premiership title win in 2012, classy South African imports and young, local lads.

The most recent of those young, local lads to burst on the scene is Jack Kenningham. Even Billy Millard, Quins general manager, who had been monitoring the openside’s rapid progress since his academy days, admits he is “a little bit surprised” about quite how well the 21-year-old “workhorse” has adapted to the top level since making his Premiership debut in February.

“When you have that work ethic and the pure courage that Jack has got, every training session, he trains like he plays”, says Millard. “That transition to playing big games, he’s been delivering that at training the last couple of years. He’s been a great find.”

Kenningham’s contributions have gone through the roof in the last two months. When Will Evans broke his tibia in late April, it seemed desperately bad news for Quins. Despite his time out, Evans is still top of the Premiership’s turnover charts with 29, 12 more than anyone else. He was nominated for Land Rover Discovery of the Season.

Kenningham has stepped up superbly in the No7 jersey. “When Wevs [Evans] got injured, it was such a shame,” he says. “I’ve tried to come in and do what I can to help.”

Kenningham and Evans are just two of a clutch of English back-rowers at Quins. Alex Dombrandt, regularly captain this year, is the senior citizen, but Archie White is also a promising talent alongside the established James Chisholm and Tom Lawday.

“We all help each other,” says Kenningham (right). “We all have strengths but can all do a bit of everything. Dommers, the way he carries and plays with the backs. Wevs, giving us help at the breakdown because he’s the king of the breakdown, you just have to look at his stats.”

Kenningham’s style? Fearless and no-nonsense. “I love getting down and dirty doing the hard graft, making tackles, at the breakdown,” he tells Standard Sport.

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