'Dad was pretty hard on me': England new-boy Louis Lynagh on growing up as the son of a rugby legend

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Louis Lynagh (left) with his proud father Michael after winning the Premiership with Harlequins - GETTY IMAGES
Louis Lynagh (left) with his proud father Michael after winning the Premiership with Harlequins - GETTY IMAGES

Having a father as famous as Michael Lynagh is not without its challenges. There were times when, as a schoolboy player, Louis Lynagh inevitably faced the pressure of living up to the name of such rugby royalty.

“I have always had, not a target on my back, but always in the back of my mind, I have known leading up to games there would be ‘that’s so-and-so’s son’, and if I don’t score two tries and run the length of the field they will call me a bad player,” he says.

“Ever since then I have been trying to overcome those odds and I think I have really enjoyed those pressurised situations.”

At times, there were moments of pressure, too, from his father, understandably keen that Louis did not squander his precocious talent as he came through the age-grade teams with England.

Louis Lynagh chats with his father, Michael, after playing for England U18s against France in 2019 - SHUTTERSTOCK
Louis Lynagh chats with his father, Michael, after playing for England U18s against France in 2019 - SHUTTERSTOCK

“He wouldn’t be my dad if he wasn’t always criticising me,” Lynagh adds with a smile. “It was more when I was younger. In schoolboy times, there was a period when he thought I wasn’t taking advantage of the natural talent I had, so he was pretty hard on me back then. Then I got my head straight and since then there are a few things, and I would either agree or disagree with him and we would come to a conclusion.”

That fatherly guidance, and his ability to thrive despite the pressure of expectation, has paid rich dividends for the Harlequins wing, who has also played age-grade rugby at full-back.

After sensationally marking his debut season in the Premiership by scoring two late tries as Harlequins snatched a dramatic 40-38 victory over Exeter in the final in June at Twickenham, the 20 year-old’s meteoric rise continued this week when he was named in England’s 45-man squad for the autumn Test series.

It was a performance that caught the eye of Eddie Jones, the England coach, and earned one last ribbing from Lynagh snr. “In the final, he was [saying], ‘Why don’t you put the ball down normally instead of diving?’ I was like, ‘Dad, why don’t you just let me have my moment, please?’”

Plenty more “moments” appear to lie ahead of Lynagh jnr. He jokes that his father has even conceded there are certain things that he does better than he did.

“Tackle, he never used to tackle,” he said. “I think I run a lot more. I’m playing more of a physical game than him. I’m still yet to quite get near his kicking abilities. Obviously, the 50-22 helps from last weekend. He never hit a 50-22! He was an out-and-out 10. My game is explosivity and carrying the ball and wanting to make an impact off skilful 10s such as Marcus [Smith] and Tommy [Allan] and the rest.”

After admitting to spending two weeks rewatching videos of the last 10 minutes of the final - once being reduced to tears - the return of pre-season has brought him down to earth and he has picked up where he left off, scoring twice again for Quins in their opening victory at Newcastle.

He initially missed the call from Jones on Tuesday morning but, after calling back, is now receiving pointers from another Australian who used to face Lynagh snr when playing for Randwick against the University of Queensland.

The student is eager to learn. “[Jones] says he likes that I stick to my strengths,” he says. “I know what the strengths of my game are and that’s what I focus on: my acceleration, aerial skills, running good lines.

“Without being arrogant, they’re things that come quite naturally for me. What I need to work on - going and finding more ball - is something that’s easily fixed. Going into an England environment is only going to elevate that part of my game.”

As he also qualifies for Australia (his brother, Tom, is a new recruit for the Queensland Reds) and Italy, the country of his birth, Lynagh is diplomatic when asked if his future now lies with England. His options remain until he is capped.

“I’ve lived here most of my life,” he says. “I was born in Italy and then we moved here when I was four or five. I have played England age group, I was at school here and now I’m happy at Harlequins and playing well for them. It’s never been a real issue. This is where I’ve been and I’m lucky and I’m blessed with that.

“My dad’s always said, 'Focus on playing rugby and especially playing well for Harlequins and the rest will take care of itself'."

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