In elite sport preparation is key to enable peak performance. Harlequins’ Louis Lynagh, son of World Cup winner Michael Lynagh, is well aware of this.
“I am a bit OCD with stuff,” says Lynagh, “there are these two light switches outside my room that when I go to bed if they are not flipped up the same way I have to go flip it up and then the light will come on and then I go down the corridor and switch on the other singular one.
“I think if I don’t do that then karma will hit me or something like that.”
It is an abstract thing to think will affect your performance, but it quickly becomes obvious when speaking to the 20-year-old how important this assiduous approach has been to him breaking into the Harlequins team. Even if that does mean asking team mates the same question five times to ensure he gets every detail spot on.
“That’s what I would do because I want to be 100% successful when I play. Yeah I might be annoying, but when I play it will translate and you will be happy I asked those questions.”
So far it certainly has translated onto the pitch. Lynagh, who is comfortable across the back three, has earned a starting berth on the wing and made six consecutive starts, scoring twice, for a resurgent Harlequins side who sit third in the Premiership.
The departure of former head coach Paul Gustard in mid-January came as a shock to Lynagh but it has not affected his or the team’s performances. Since Gustard left, Harlequins have won four consecutive league games for the first time since March 2019 and Lynagh is determined to emulate the success of other recent academy graduates, Marcus Smith and Cadan Murley, by nailing down a starting jersey.
“One of the greatest things about this club is that the youth system is really strong.
“It’s almost a bigger driving factor. Look how many of these academy guys have made it, if you don’t make it, it is your own individual fault. The framework is there, the support staff is there, the only thing that could be letting you down is your individual work ethic. In my head that is another motivation factor.”
After excelling on loan at Richmond in National One during the disrupted 2019/20 season, Lynagh earmarked the first lockdown as a golden opportunity to improve his game. Alongside his two younger brothers, Tom, 18, who is moving to Australia to join the Queensland Reds in July, and Nicolo, 12, he trained every day.
“In the first lockdown I am grateful for having two younger brothers because every day when I needed to train, I would do some gym work in the morning and then grab one of my two brothers and then we would go to the park and work on skills.
“That is why I think after lockdown I came and hit the ground running really well, because I had been working every day.
“I think one of the biggest improvements I had was with my out of hand kicking. Before lockdown I was really struggling with it and after lockdown I have continued to work at it but that showed me that if I keep on working at it there are skills which I can get to the top level.”
Lynagh has also built a close bond with Harlequins veteran Mike Brown and the former England international acts as his mentor.
“Mike has obviously had an amazing career, 70-odd caps for England, nearing 350 for Quins, so who better to learn from as a back three player, positioning, skill wise or reading the opposition.”
“The biggest thing I have learnt [from Mike] has been to be 100% decisive with everything you do.
“As a full back or back three player when you get the ball, no matter the situation, you have to be all in with the decision you make. Whether that is to kick it, run it, pass it, even if it is wrong decision you can make it the right decision by fully committing.”
Having a father who vice-captained Australia to World Cup glory in 1991 in your corner also has its uses. The apprentice has made sure to utilise the master’s knowledge.
“We do have a lot of conversations about when I play and what he thinks.
“But even from a young age he didn’t want to get too involved because he knows how some parents like to be really hands on.
“Being able to take that step back was quite good from him and let me be me. Now that I am on my own journey he does everything he can to help me – advising me in off the pitch situations, or talking about training, or a certain move we run and how we could run it better.
“I am very much my own person. If I can make a career that I am proud of, that my family is proud of, and achieve all the things that I want to achieve then I don’t think people will be saying I have anything to live up to or that I will be living in his shadow.
“I am very aware of the weight that my name carries but I don’t let it affect who I am or how I want to go about my game.”
If his start in professional rugby is anything to go by then it would be no surprise if he creates his own legacy. However, while rugby is important, he remains acutely aware of preparing for a life after rugby as demonstrated by his father who is managing director of Dow Jones, an online media company.
“I want to go into finance. There is a really good course at LSE called Economic History.
“Quins have helped me with that [studying] through the RPA [Rugby Players’ Association]. They send me over online links for stuff I can do and courses to make sure I am up to speed so if I apply to university, even though I have not done an economics A Level, I have done all this list of courses to go on top of what else I have achieved. It shows a willingness to the university that I want to work for it and want to better myself.”
With a promising future ahead both on and off the field that assiduous approach looks likely to stand him in good stead.
Feature image credit: @harlequins