Raffi Quirke, Tom Roebuck and Joe Carpenter all impressed in Sale Sharks’ comprehensive win over London Irish on Friday night, which saw them top the Gallagher Premiership. Ollie Wilmott was at the AJ Bell Stadium to run the rule over the England hopefuls. 

With the Autumn Internationals kicking off in three weeks, Eddie Jones will be picking his England squad very soon. With only three matches before players leave to play for their countries, there is not long left to impress – and the Sharks’ trio of 21-year-olds gave the England boss food for thought here.  

Quirke was pulling the strings all match from scrum-half, setting up two tries, before departing the field just short of the hour mark. Scoring two tries, Roebuck was a threat down the right wing with his pace and power. Meanwhile, Carpenter scored the all important try to extend the margin just before half time. 

Quirke pulls away from London Irish defence
Quirke carrying the ball strongly/ Credit: Sale Sharks

Seamlessly coming back into the team for his first match in six months, it was like Quirke had been playing all season. Whenever the 21-year-old had the ball, the AJ Bell crowd held its breath with a sense of excitement and expectation knowing something was about to happen.

Shouts of ‘Go on Raff, go get him’ spurred Quirke on to chase down opponents when defending, showing off his energy and desire even when it looked like a forgone conclusion.

Always looking to be creative, Quirke almost set up a brilliant try in the 25th minute when his reverse dummy pass to Roebuck resulted in the winger running the ball forward 20 metres, just two short of the try line.

The second half was when Quirke set up two tries. Ingeniously picking out Roebuck with a short kick over the London Irish defence, the winger had the simple task of touching the ball down.

The two young Englishman would link up again for a try, an easy fast pass to his left allowing Roebuck to speed in and score right at the posts. Receiving warm applause when departing the field, Quirke, who already has two England caps to his name, is surely in Jones’ thinking. 

Speaking after the match, Sale manager Alex Sanderson said: “It’s only his second game in how many months and to be that sharp. He doesn’t need any warm-up time does he.” 

Tom Roebuck scoring try vs London Irish
Quirke and Roebuck celebrating try / Credit: Sale Sharks

Winger Roebuck had a standout performance with two tries. Constantly a threat down Sales’ right, what is perhaps most impressive about Roebuck is his maturity and positioning. As well as his obvious power, pace and strength, these traits are what set him apart from other players of his age.

Having already played 37 senior matches for Sale, there is good reason why manager Sanderson puts his faith in him. Poise and calmness allowed the player from Inverness to easily gather Quirke’s kick and score his first try of the night.

But it was his pace and power in abundance that made it simple enough to receive Quirke’s pass and confidently bundle the ball over the line right at the posts for his second. He could have had a hat trick of tries but his 20 metre dart was well stopped just short of the try line in the first half.

Roebuck, who attended the Wirral Grammar School, has made 13 appearances at U20 and U18 level for England and has now made his claim for a senior England place. 

Clearly a fan favourite, Carpenter’s name received the loudest cheer as the line ups were read aloud. Constantly in conversation with Roebuck, the closely positioned players combined to hit a big tackle on a London Irish defender, taking him into touch and earning Sale a lineout.

Scoring the margin gaining try just before half time, Carpenter stormed down the left onto a fast-paced pass from Rob Du Preez before diving over the line. Quirke was quick to join Carpenter in celebrating, jumping into the scorers arms.

With England’s current full back Freddie Stewart also 21, Carpenter should be encouraged about Eddie Jones’ faith in youth. 


As well as all three players’ individual qualities, the chemistry between them is clear to see. Player relationships are maybe what England need most; recent international matches have shown a lack of understanding between players leading to poor results, proving individual quality is not enough.

Whether three or none are chosen for the upcoming England squad, the Sale trio will be giving Jones a welcome headache. Raffie Quirke, Tom Roebuck and Joe Carpenter are IN the England conversation.  

England kick off their Autumn International’s campaign at Twickenham against Argentina on November the 6th