Harlequins' Jack Clifford looking to push promising career forward
Last Updated: 07/05/14 2:56pm
The 2013/14 campaign has been a breakthrough one for Jack Clifford, but the Harlequins starlet has told Sky Sports that he will not be resting on his laurels.
A memorable Aviva Premiership debut against Sale Sharks in October and further international recognition within the England Sevens set-up have come the 21-year-old’s way this season.
Clifford is, however, not the type to sit back and admire what he has achieved, with the highly-rated No 8 looking to press ahead domestically and internationally.
He told Sky Sports: “I always try to be quite positive. This season, I’m not going to look back and look at my hamstring injury and my knee injury, I’m going to look back and see I had my first real good taste of the Premiership against Sale, obviously the sevens as well. I’ll look back at those ones and look on to kicking on in next season, rather than dwelling on the negatives.
“You can never sit idly and sit on your laurels, you have always got to be trying to improve yourself and push yourself. That’s what I’m really hoping to do next season.”
Clifford believes he is in the best possible place to continue developing his game, with the Harlequins ranks loaded with world-class talent that it would be impossible not to learn important lessons from.
He said: “When you look at the back row competition, there’s the England captain, Nick Easter, who is probably playing some of the best rugby he’s ever played and he’s 30-something, so the competition and the people I can learn off is great.
“I think it’s a great place to be and a great place to learn. Also, having a coach like Conor O’Shea, who doesn’t worry about putting young players in, it’s the perfect place for me to be right now.
“All of the back row have been there and done it – Maurie Fa’asavalu, Tom Guest, Nick Easter, Chris Robshaw, then you have got young players coming through as well. They are all great people to learn off and try to build off that.”
On a new contract penned in February that ensures he will not be going anywhere else any time soon, Clifford added: “It’s nice to have that security of knowing that you have got a contract. For me, being at Quins is where I want to be, it’s perfect for me at the moment and where I want to be. I’m really happy with it.
“Having coaches like Conor O’Shea, Tony Diprose as well – someone who has been there and played for England, played for the Lions – he’s someone I can really look to as a mentor to help me improve myself as a player.”
While enhancing his game at club level is, and has been, the top priority for Clifford, he believes he has benefited greatly from the time he has spent skippering England’s U20 side to Junior World Cup glory in 2013 and travelling to Hong Kong and Tokyo as part of the HSBC World Sevens Series.
On a trip to the Far East, he said: “I think it gave me a different outlook, a different aspect on my game. That positioning, the defence work and the difference between defence and attack compared to XVs, I think all of it almost gave me another string to my bow. It gave me a good opportunity to go and showcase myself again and go and have a really good laugh and play some good rugby.
“It was an awesome experience. There probably aren’t going to be too many more opportunities where I get to go to Japan, so it was a great opportunity to go and see the world and play some rugby while I was doing it.”
The next logical step for Clifford is to nail down a role at Quins and force himself into Stuart Lancaster’s senior England plans, with a number of talented youngsters having already shown that the door will be opened if performances merit inclusion.
He added: “It shows that the stepping stone from the U20s to the senior level really isn’t that big and that there is always that opportunity to put yourself forward and get yourself into Stuart Lancaster’s team.
“They have shown there isn’t a big gap and that you’ve just got to prove yourself and play well. Players like Jack Nowell, Anthony Watson, Billy Vunipola have all done it at club level, shone at club level, and put a marker down which has allowed them to showcase how they can play at first team level.”
Marland Yarde is another to have made the senior breakthrough, and he will be playing alongside Clifford at Twickenham Stoop next season.
“Marland is a great player and everyone at Quins is really looking forward to him coming,” said Clifford.
“I have known him for quite a while, he has been a friend and I played against him at school. He has always been a really good player and I’m looking forward to him coming to Quins.”
Jack Clifford was speaking at the launch of the Aviva Premiership Rugby Policy. Sign up for exclusive access to interviews and competitions at avivapremiershiprugby.com