The Premiership Rugby Cup is a breeding ground for the Sharks stars of the future, but for tonight’s skipper Sam Dugdale, it’s a chance to prove he’s worthy of a spot in Alex Sanderson’s squad when the big Premiership and Heineken Champions Cup challenges come around.
The 23-year-old flanker captains Your Sharks for the second time tonight, having first being given the honour earlier in this competition against Newcastle, and he knows just how important his role is.
“I try not to overthink it too much but it is a huge honour and a really valuable experience for me,” he said. “I know I’m one of the older players in the squad now so the role brings a bit more responsibility on and off the pitch and I’m ready for that.
“I think I’m the sort of captain who leads by example rather than someone who shouts a lot, but I’m still learning the role. We have some fantastic leaders at the club like Jono Ross and Ben Curry, so when I do get the chance to be captain, I try as much as I can to learn from them.
“I know I’m not the most vocal person on the pitch but tonight we’ve got plenty of good speakers like Byron or Tom Curtis. I’ll let them do the talking and I’ll try and lead from the front, by how I play the game.”
Former Kirkham Grammar pupil Sam joined the Sharks academy system at the age of 14, but then was released at the end of the 2019/20. His time away from the game lasted just four months though, after back-row injuries led to a new contract and a second chance.
“After I came back the club felt different,” he said. “It felt like everyone was tighter on and off the pitch and the atmosphere around Carrington was brilliant.
“The squad this year is full of lads who have grown up together so everyone gets on and everyone is pulling in the same direction. We all want to help and support each other and I think Alex has a lot to do with that. He has brought in this culture where we all feel like we’re part of one big squad.
“The Premiership Cup is a perfect example of that. It’s a fantastic competition for the younger players and I’m sure they’re all really excited about tonight, but we all want to be involved in the Premiership or in Europe, and this a massive chance to get some minutes and show Alex what we can do.
“We know it won’t be easy tonight. Quins are a brilliant team and whoever they’ve picked tonight will give us a massive test. We know they’ll throw the ball around but our focus this week has been on how we can impose our game on them and get the result we need.
“We’ve approached this game in exactly the same way as a normal Premiership game and we all know we’re potentially only a couple of games away from a final and then maybe a trophy. We won it a couple of years ago and we’d all love to do it again.”