Luke Northmore Exclusive: ‘This weekend is definitely about us putting our best foot forward’

Luke Northmore joined Harlequins after being a star player in BUCS Super Rugby for Cardiff Met
©JMP for Harlequins

After picking up a 40-31 win over Newcastle Falcons on the opening weekend of the new Gallagher Premiership season, Luke Northmore and his Harlequins teammates now have their sights set on besting their London rivals, Saracens.

Across the 80 minutes, there were plenty of bumps on the road to victory. Halfway through the game, it was Newcastle that led the contest.

Tries in the second half for George Head, Lennox Anyanwu, Alex Dombrandt and Joe Marchant were the keys to victory, and it could have been more for the men from West London, who had efforts from Northmore and Tyrone Green chalked off.

It was the response to the latter's disallowed try that pleased the 25-year-old most. At the time, Quins led the game 28-17 and would be pegged back minutes later after Newcastle drove George McGuigan and Logovi’i Mulipola across the whitewash.

“There is probably a fair few moments in games that can go your way or don’t go your way, but it is how we reacted to that,” Northmore told TRU. 

“We had a couple of disallowed tries. We had Tyrone’s first phase try brought back, and that in recent years with Quins, that could of spiralled us into going and losing that game.

“I have been at Kingston Park where we have lost games like that because of moments very similar. I think there were only two or three points in it when the try got disallowed.

“Being able to just put it behind us and move onto the next job, and in the Quins way we score that wonder try from 100 meters and everyone is smiling, happy as Larry, having a good mindset shift on being able to go onto the next job after a little bit of adversity. I think everyone was chuffed.”

Ending last season with a 34-17 defeat to Saracens in the Premiership semi-finals, Harlequins failed to deal with being on the backfoot for large periods of that game.

With relatively little squad rotation this summer, plenty that call The Stoop home carry the memory of that loss at the StoneX Stadium with them.

“We hadn’t really had much of a changed squad from last year, so a lot of people knew the hurt and the pain that went into losing the semi and how close we got,” Northmore said.

“I think it probably did take a while for a lot of people to get over that. I think coming back in, there is always that ‘it’s a new year’, and it is very exciting. We had a good chance to reflect on that semi-final, and ultimately be honest with ourselves that we weren’t quite good enough.

“We were outplayed in most facets of that game and I think going into this year, there has definitely been a mind shift that we can’t rely on what happened at Bristol to win us games. The semi-final that year was such an anomaly that now we need to be a good enough side that once we are in the play-offs, it is not just a ‘hope for the best’.

“I think that is definitely where this club is going, that we’re striving to be every time we are in those big moments. We are going to be a much better squad for it.”

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An added positive to their performance against Newcastle was picking up a win without many of their star players. With Marcus Smith and Danny Care both on mandatory rest after their excursions with England over the summer and Andre Esterhuizen away with South Africa, it meant that Tabai Matson had to field a much different squad.

Even among the less familiar faces there were starts for Joe Marler, Dombrandt and Italy international Tommaso Allan. 

Marchant was also available from the bench, and in a year where the lack of breaks in the season means England internationals are only likely to play 13 games, we are going to see plenty of fresh faces make an impression on the Premiership.

Northmore is one such player that is due to have a big part to play for the men in four quarters but at 25, it is not only his playing ability that will be useful to the cause.

“Probably the main thing is trying to be a lot more consistent [in playing], and I suppose there is an element of leadership that comes with being more and more involved in bigger games,” Northmore said.

“We have a young squad, so I sit here and I don’t feel very experienced in the rugby world, but when we are in the 15 or the 23 and I look around, I think maybe I am more experienced than I think.

“There has been a little bit more onus on having a bit more leadership amongst the boys and with the absentee of the internationals, people need to step up. There is people who coaches want to look to, and I hope that I can do that job as well as they want me to.

Northmore says he is focussing on playing his best for Harlequins before thinking about an England call-up
©JMP for Harlequins

“I think going through this year, there is definitely more of a leadership role and I hope that is reciprocated from the lads as well as the coaches.”

Sitting at the restaurant contained at the Holiday Inn adjacent to Surrey Sports Park, you see first hand the relationship between the players that are milling around. Whether it’s between the senior men’s and women’s squads or the Academy players, there is a clear bond between everyone.

This is never more present than when Northmore plants a firm fist on the chest of Senior Academy player Cassius Cleaves, the 19-year-old who at one point was branded as the most exciting player in schoolboy rugby.

These relationships could well prove vital with squads set to be put to the limit with a brutal season ahead. Between now and the New Year, Premiership clubs will have just one week off, with everything driven towards the Rugby World Cup in France which is now less than a year away.

“That is something that over the last 18 months – definitely the last 12 months – is working on building great relationships with one another,” Northmore said. 

“It is very easy to pay lip service to that and say we are all friends, and we all get along, but ultimately what is going to make things better on the field is trust and honesty and good relationships.

“I think everybody at Quins knows that they can be honest with one another, they can be competitive and ultimately off the pitch we will be as close as possible.”

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Hosting Saracens at The Stoop this weekend, Harlequins’ first home game of the new season will also be the curtain raiser for their London rivals.

It presents an early opportunity for the Premiership champions from 2020/21 to potentially vanquish the daemons from their semi-final loss just a few months ago.

Over the three games that the teams played out last season, Harlequins lost all three. A full-blooded affair whenever the two biggest clubs in the English capital come toe to toe, it stands to reason that it is a fixture which means more.

“That’s why it is called a derby I suppose,” Northmore said. “When it comes down to it, lads always relish the opportunity to be able to play in these big games, these big derbies.

“Especially after last year, there is obviously a lot of hurt that we didn’t perform as well as we should of and going into this weekend is definitely about us putting our best foot forward, trying to take away the emotion and the element of derbies and making sure that we are the best Harlequins rugby side that goes out on the field.”

As Northmore glances at his watch across the table from me, it becomes apparent that our time is running out. During our conversation, the former star of BUCS Super Rugby for Cardiff Met has been impressive, speaking about the growth of his team and coming up against old rivals Saracens this Saturday.

But it felt only right to ask a question about his own ambitions. That question is a simple one. The 25-year-old received his maiden England call-up ahead of the Six Nations and with Eddie Jones’ juggling of the centres at that time, Northmore is possibly unlucky not to have a cap tucked away in his home somewhere.

It was previously mentioned that a World Cup is not all that far away and the conversation surrounding selection hasn’t slowed down one bit, but does Northmore put a lot of thought into representing his country?

“Not really if I am honest,” he said. “I don’t mean that in a nonchalant way like I don’t care and that I’m not interested. I think for me, it is definitely a situation of if I am not playing regularly and enough for Quins and putting my best foot forward, that is something that I can’t really consider thinking about.

“I think the only way I will be fortunate to get those opportunities again is if I play well for Quins and I play enough and I make the most of the opportunities that I get here. 

"At the moment, I just want to play as much as I can for Quins, ensure that I am doing everything I can for the team, and if anything was to ever come from it again, I would take it with open arms.

“But if not, I know I am doing the best for the squad and performing at what I feel like is my best.”