Rugby Union: Five Nations' Championship - Prime time for brotherhood

Coaxing the best out of the Quinnells is not always easy but Graham Henry may have found the key
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The Independent Online
AFTER A bad night at the Madejski Stadium last Tuesday, John Kingston discussed the match with his wife over a mug of Horlicks, as you do. What more could Richmond have done against Leicester? "We should have moved it wider on our scrum ball," Kingston told Sarah. "And I should never have sold Scott Quinnell."

A couple of years ago, when Kingston was putting together a squad for the Premiership, he masterminded the extraordinary coup of getting Scott to join from Wigan and his younger brother Craig from Llanelli. Kingston, the Richmond coach, saw Scott, in particular, as the cornerstone of his pack and signed him on a five-year contract. When the deal was done, Quinnell's wife Nicola questioned the move. London, she said, was the last place she wanted to live.

A couple of months ago Scott and his family, ignoring the pleas of the club, moved back to Llanelli. "I know a lot of people who find it impossible to settle into a cosmopolitan set- up," Kingston said. "London never suited him." He cannot hide his disappointment. "Had Scott played against Leicester he'd have got over twice."

Craig suffered a knee injury in that match (a partial rupture of a ligament) and is being worked on in an effort to get him fit so he can rejoin Scott in the Wales pack for the Five Nations' Championship opener against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday. Graham Henry, the Wales coach, desperately wants to name both when he announces his team tomorrow.

Last November, Henry, in his first match in charge of Wales, got the best out of the brothers as they frightened the life out of the Springboks at Wembley. "If they are treated correctly as professional footballers you can build a good relationship," Henry, who fought Scott's corner at a disciplinary hearing after he had been sent off for an innocuous late tackle on Lawrence Dallaglio, said. "Like everybody else they want to respond. I can't afford not to bring the best out of people. They both have huge poten- tial. Scott could be the best No 8 in the world."

Neither Kevin Bowring, Henry's predecessor, nor Kingston found Scott easy to handle. For one thing he - and his brother - pick up a lot of injuries. "Scott is not quite right in terms of going through the pain barrier," Kingston said. "It's a mental thing. He finds pain difficult to cope with. Some people freeze when they have to face the needle and it's a bit like that. When he gets injured it's a mental struggle. He can't put it to the back of his mind. I've seen him lying on the back of the team coach complaining that his back's knackered or his leg's knackered. I love him to bits but he can be difficult.

"Craig is more straightforward. He wears his heart on his sleeve and gives 100 per cent. He's driven by a desire to play rugby and there's not a lot else. Sometimes he doesn't know when enough is enough. I told him the other day how important he is to the Richmond front five. When he's on fire the line-out works, the scrum is more effective. When he's missing our problems are highlighted. If he carries on developing I see no reason why he shouldn't captain Richmond. He's really an inspirational man."

Bowring was criticised for neglecting the Quinnells and he admits that at times he found them exasperating. "They key is knowing how to motivate them," Bowring said. "There is no doubt they both have terrific ability but whether they have applied that ability to its best effect is questionable. They could be world-beaters but all too often there are just flashes of it. They find it difficult consistently to produce the performances of which they are capable."

Bowring was not always impressed with their fitness or their weight. "They spent as much time on the physio's bench as on the training field. Mind you, they play that way. Craig picks up a lot of bumps because of the physical nature of his game. Scott needs the disciplined environment to apply himself.

"Their attitude to personal fitness seems to have improved and that is reflected in the quality of their play. Certainly, against South Africa, Graham Henry got them to play, perhaps less so against Argentina." Although Wales beat Argentina, the Pumas' hydraulic pack scored four pushover tries and Agustin Pichot, Richmond's Argentinian scrum-half, was able to take the mickey out of the Quinnells. Accord-ing to Pichot, who gets on well with both brothers, they were so short of breath they were unable to respond. Scott, whose Lions tour to South Africa was cut short by injury, limped off two minutes into the second half against Argentina.

It was in 1994 that the son of the great Derek Quinnell announced his arrival in international rugby by scoring a brilliant try against France in Cardiff. Scott took the ball at a line-out, handed off a couple of Frenchmen, swerved past a couple more on a 30-yard run before planting the ball in the corner one-handed.

"It was a high-impact image that sticks in people's minds," Bowring said. "When he's carrying the ball he makes a big impression but in my opinion he needs to do it more often. I have great admiration for him. He's got to knuckle down and be industrious on and off the field. I found the whole thing a frustrating experience because I know the talent is there."

Henry said that Scott could be the best No 8 in the world; Kingston's view is slightly different. "For me he's the best No 8 in the world when he wants to be," Kingston said. "Maybe he doesn't want it often enough. I don't think that will ever change. He has other things in his life.

"He's now in his own little world. Playing in Wales means that he doesn't have a mountain to climb every week. He's probably played less than 10 games this season and he's as fresh as a daisy. I'll be amazed if Scott doesn't have a massive game against Scotland. Clearly he gets on very well with Graham Henry and I'll be amazed if he doesn't have a really fantastic Five Nations."

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