EXCLUSIVE Quins move was a no-brainer… despite rivalry with Irish! There was only one deal WILL JOSEPH wanted when his old club folded last summer, and he still has his sights set on England
- London Irish folded last summer but Joseph was snapped up by Harlequins
- He will go toe-to-toe with another English talent, Henry Arundell, on Sunday
- He also still wants to play for his country after missing out on a World Cup place
When Will Joseph went on holiday to Ibiza last summer with his then London Irish team-mates, he did so on the back of what was a successful season for both him and his team.
As he partied away on the ‘white island’ at the end of a breakthrough campaign, the now 21-year-old centre could never have foreseen what was to come.
‘There were five of us young boys from Irish who went out,’ Joseph says, now able to look back on a turbulent period with a smile. ‘We all thought we still had jobs at that point but when we came back, reality kicked in. I probably wouldn’t have spent so much money if I’d known what was going to happen!’
Joseph had barely shifted his holiday hangover when he learned that after finishing fifth in the Premiership last season, Irish had followed Worcester and Wasps into financial oblivion. The London club’s descent into administration meant all of Irish’s employees – including Joseph – lost their jobs immediately.
‘We had a pretty strong season, just missing out on the top four. We felt we were building pretty nicely and had a talented young group,’ he says. ‘There were rumours flying about. We didn’t believe it (administration) was going to happen but when we got back from Ibiza, we felt like it was pretty much the end.
Will Joseph has settled into life at Harlequins after joining from London Irish after their collapse last summer
The youngster has admitted that he and his team-mates didn’t expect the club to go into administration when they did
Former England head coach Eddie Jones gave Joseph his international debut in Brisbane
‘It was tough because all that was going on and I had to focus then on going into the World Cup preparation camps with England. It was a pretty stressful time.
‘I was pretty fortunate in that as soon as Irish went down, I managed to get a move to Harlequins.
‘The uncertainty was a lot harder for players with mortgages and children. A few of my close mates from Irish couldn’t find a club and have gone to university.
‘I’m sure they’re enjoying it but going from a professional environment back to education is tough. I was lucky. There were a few offers, but I was pretty set on Harlequins.
‘I was really attracted to their style. It was the club I had in mind when Irish went down even though they are a London rival! It was a no brainer!’
Harlequins’ decision to snap up Joseph immediately was no surprise given the huge promise he had shown with Irish. His talent is obvious and was enough for former England head coach Eddie Jones to hand him an England debut in Australia in 2022. Joseph had only been named for that tour as an apprentice. The younger brother of former Bath, England and Lions centre Jonathan was a rookie down under alongside Henry Arundell – another product of the Irish system.
On Sunday afternoon, the two will go head-to-head in a mouthwatering Champions Cup tie in Paris when Harlequins travel to Arundell’s TOP14 leaders Racing 92.
Jack Willis (pictured) got injure in the captain’s run before the second Test which paved the way for Joseph’s inclusion
‘My mindset going in was I had nothing to lose,’ Joseph says, recalling his first England tour.
‘We were in camp before the Barbarians match and Eddie came up to me and said: “Do you want to hear the good news or the bad?” I can’t really remember what I said!
‘He said: “We’ll start with the bad news – you’re not playing against the Barbarians but I’m going to take you to Australia.” I was in disbelief.
‘The thought of going on an international tour when I was 19 was incredible – something you dream of as a kid. Eddie said to me and Henry: “You’re named as apprentice players but if you train hard and I think you’re ready and good enough, then you’ll play.”
‘Jack Willis got injured in the captain’s run before the second Test and Eddie gave me the nod to say he was going to put me on the bench. It was a crazy time.
‘There was a lot going through my head – excitement, nerves, a bit of disbelief. I was fortunate as I couldn’t overthink it in that amount of time.’
He was able to focus on international duty even though his club had gone under and a move was a necessity
Joseph made his Test bow off the bench in Brisbane for what is his only cap to date. There will surely be more to follow in the years to come. Joseph’s graceful running style in midfield is eerily reminiscent of his older brother’s. Both came through the Millfield School system.
Sir Gareth Edwards, Huw Jones and Callum Sheedy are rugby internationals who were also educated at Millfield. So too were Aston Villa’s Tyrone Mings and Formula One star Lando Norris.
‘A lot of people say that,’ Joseph says of comparisons with his brother. ‘The way we both run is very similar. We’re brothers and we play the same position. It’s probably just genetics!
‘In the changing room at Millfield they have a plaque with a list of all the top players who have played in your position. In mine, there was my brother and Huw. They’ve had some real talent come through that school. It’s something you want to follow in the footsteps of.’
Joseph was in his house choir at Millfield. He downplays his singing ability, but is certainly hitting the right notes with Harlequins. His form so far this season has meant his new team hasn’t missed Joe Marchant too badly after his move to Stade Francais.
This weekend Joseph will come up against fellow England star and former team-mate Henry Arundell of Racing 92
Arundell has made an impressive start to live at his new club, already scoring a hat-trick
Joseph marked his England debut with a post-match rendition of Beyonce’s Halo. ‘It was a tough one to choose,’ he says. ‘But I think it went down alright.’
After scoring twice in a hammering of Sale last weekend, Joseph will be looking to continue his impressive development against tough French opposition in Europe. He was part of England’s preparations for the World Cup earlier this year but didn’t make Steve Borthwick’s final squad, unlike his close friend Arundell. Both young men will undoubtedly be key figures for England in the next four-year cycle but are on opposite sides on Sunday.
‘Henry is an incredible player. I’m sure wherever he’ll be he’ll be pulling up trees. He’s smashing it,’ Joseph says. ‘My goal is to keep starting and winning game with Harlequins.
‘I’d like to try to be involved with England too. I’m very lucky I’ve managed to find a new club and I’m still doing the job I love.’
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