As a North-West junior champion in triathlon, Raphael Quirke might have opted to pursue Olympics glory in a gruelling sport involving swimming, cycling and running.
Instead, the Chorlton-born, ex-Broughton Park RFC junior opted to pursue his dreams in rugby and, having represented England and U16 and U18 level, is a member of the current U20s squad.
Since joining Sale’s academy in 2018, pocket rocket Quirke has made rapid progress and as well as impressing on the international stage, the 18-year-old scrum-half has been representing Sale FC in National League One as well as learning at the shoulder of World Cup-winning No.9 Faf de Klerk who, along with Kiwi star TJ Perenara, is a man he admires hugely.
On his decision to choose rugby, Quirke explained: “At 12 or 13 I was North-West champion at Triathlon and really enjoyed it. Both my parents were triathletes, which is why I went down that path at first, but I loved my rugby as well and having to put on muscle mass for one sport whilst trying to lose it for another (triathlon) was a pretty hard thing to do.
“I had to make a choice so I went for rugby and it’s worked out pretty well. I’ve had great experiences with England at U16s and U18s level, touring South Africa with the 18s last year and doing a lot of team bonding with some really great lads. Quite a lot of us have been called into the U20s squad now so it’s great to be with these lads again for the Six Nations.
“It’s brilliant to have been called up a year early and I’ve got two years at it, so hopefully I can get a chance in the Six Nations and have a crack at the World Cup.”
At Sale, Quirke is learning from the best. He said: “I’ve not been with Faf that long because he was at the World Cup, but since he’s been back, he’s been great in going over clips with me and trying to work on my defence a bit more. Faf’s brilliant at getting out of the line, cutting down options and trying to make interceptions, so they’re areas I’m improving.
“I’m a big fan of TJ Perenara in New Zealand, too, and he’s definitely someone I look up to. He’s a brilliant support player who’s always on the inside and is another, like Faf, who shows tremendous physicality in defence. I like to put in a shot myself now and again!”
As for his other attributes, think Danny Care. Quirke adds: “I’m more of a livewire scrum-half. I like interesting defenders, taking people on and bringing other people into the game. I try to play the game fast, taking the blindside and making a few cheeky darts now and again.
“With England U20s, it’s great to have an ex-scrum-half like Alan Dickens as my coach as well. With all the little tips he can give me, it’s only going to develop my game.”