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Smith: Quins' Clifford is an England star in the making
Ollie Smith will be surprised if on-loan flanker Jack Clifford does not play at least 25 games for England.
The 19-year-old was among a trio of Harlequins academy stars to impress as head coach Smith’s Esher beat Wharfedale 64-20 at Molesey Road on Saturday.
Australia-born Clifford, who was part of Quins’ A League title winning side, notched a brace, while young winger Charlie Walker, playing at full back, had a hand in pretty much every one of his side’s 10 tries.
And head coach Smith, who also praised Quins prop Kyle Sinckler for praise, expects big things from the trio in the not too distant future.
“If Jack doesn’t get 25 caps for England then something has gone very wrong,” he said.
“We are very lucky to have him, Charlie, Kyle and George Merrick – who unfortunately is injured.
“They are not just among the best four players in this country, they are four of the best 20 or 21-year-olds in the world.
“I’m very proud Quins and their academy manager Tony Diprose see value in sending them to us.
“Charlie was on a different level on Saturday. He had a massive influence on the game and was involved in almost every try.”
Winger Andy Wright got a hat-trick to add to Clifford's pair, two from Luke Daniels (two) and one each for Mike Macfarlane, Ian Kench and Chris Elder.
The result avenged a 18-15 defeat at Wharfedale earlier in the season and came despite a delay in the players being paid for their Decemeber efforts – an incident Smith felt the club’s powers that be should learn from.
“We had a poor training week last week and I spent much of it dealing with emails from players asking about pay,” said Smith.
“They didn’t get paid last week, but still put in a performance and that says a lot about them.
“I’m assured it has been sorted now. There is talk about the club’s ambition to be promoted, but you have to back that up with actions on and off the pitch.”
Esher travel to in-form Old Albanians on Saturday, with Smith admitting it is a must win game.
“It could make or break our season,” he added.