Sam Harris Interview: England U20s' flourishing full-back looks set for an exciting future

Sam Harris has impressed in the England U20s jersey this season
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Last week saw England U20s secure their first win of the 2023 World U20s Championships and Bath Rugby’s Breakthrough Player of the Year Sam Harris was full of praise for his side.

The England U20s back says their thumping 53-7 victory over Fiji last Thursday has put the squad on a “real high" after they also drew their opener with Six Nations Grand Slam winners Ireland.

Harris said: "Coming from a tough game against Ireland and to stay together as a team like we did and put a big score on Fiji was a real positive for the group.”

Harris was forced to watch England's win from the sidelines due to hamstring issues, but thankfully for the Bath man, he is ready to go again and has been named on the starting team sheet for Tuesday’s clash against second seeds Australia.

He said: “Personally, I would have loved to have played. It looked like a class game but I had a slight tweak in my hamstring. There was a risk of damaging it further. Coming out of Ireland, being fit for Australia was the aim. I went for an MRI and it looked like Fiji wasn’t going to happen but we looked at Australia as the target.”

Current head coach Mark Mapletoft will now be aiming to build on his solid start in charge of the U20s after taking over the reins from Alan Dickens in May.

Mapletoft is someone Harris has worked with before and the latter is enjoying having him back in camp: “I’ve worked with Mark for quite some time now since the U18s. We have a really good relationship and he’s come in and settled in with the lads really well."

The crop of emerging talent at Mapletoft's disposal is an exciting one and the U20s pathway has proven to be a reliable source of future international stars with many players using the World U20s Championships as a platform to break into the senior set-up.

Some players can burst onto the scene almost immediately after being capped and evolve into world-class talent. It is certainly not too long ago that names like Freddie Steward, Henry Arundell and Marcus Smith were in Harris’ shoes.

He says that whilst it is exciting to know that senior international rugby is within reach, he is maturely focused on the job at present: "It’s all about the here and now at the moment. You can’t get carried away and get too focused on the future. What will be will be."

Harris is a versatile back who has the ability to play at both fly-half as well as full-back, which could prove to be a key aspect of his game moving forwards. His scything line breaks in this year's U20s Six Nations showcased his attacking capabilities from deep and his role in this current side appears to be in the No.15 jersey.

However, Harris said that club side Bath favour him at 10: "I think at the moment, this team [England] works better with me playing at full-back. With the team working as it is, I think I’ll probably stay there. At Bath, they see me more as a 10 and that’s where I want to play long-term."

Harris has also been able to hone his skills with the University of Bath in BUCS Super Rugby, a competition that has become a breeding ground for future international talent. 

Alex Dombrandt, Christ Tshiunza and Aaron Wainwright are just some of the many names that have come through BSR and made it to the highest level of the game, and Harris sees university rugby as a valuable source for his development as a player.

He said: “For any young player, all you’re trying to do is just play as much rugby as you can. At Bath Uni, the coaches, Ryan Davis and Mark Lilley, were first-team coaches at Bath Rugby a couple of years back. The development that they’ve brought to my game has been massive.”

Harris also made his professional debut for Bath Rugby in 2022-23 in the Premiership Rugby Cup and now wants to continue performing for England U20s before kicking on next season with the Blue, Black and White.

"Getting my professional debut was really exciting and I really enjoyed it as well. As the season went on, the group got a lot tighter and we were flying at the end. We’re hoping to bring that into next season.

"I want to keep building from where I left off and I’ve set myself goals that I want to achieve. A big focus of mine since Bath see me more as a ten, is to keep improving my goal-kicking. I think it’s a real asset to have and a big component of my game."