Having conquered the initial shock of becoming a regular starter in Aviva Premiership Rugby for the first time, Scott Steele is determined to remain the first choice scrum-half at London Irish.
The 21-year-old joined the Exiles over the summer after three seasons at Leicester Tigers, having made only a solitary league appearance off the bench during the 2011-12 campaign.
While Steele was driven to move on from Welford Road by the promise of more game time, he admits that he was expecting to play second fiddle to experienced Ireland international Tomas O’Leary at first.
Yet after impressing director of rugby Brian Smith in pre-season, Steele was handed the No.9 jersey for the curtain-raiser against Harlequins at Twickenham and has started in nine out of 11 rounds of Aviva Premiership Rugby so far.
And with the former Scotland Under-20 international rapidly learning how to adapt his game to the demands of the league, Steele is hoping to inspire his side to an improved second half to their campaign.
“It has been great coming down here and getting a lot more game time – although probably more than I expected when I made the move,” he said.
“The Leicester players and coaching staff were brilliant to me but the opportunity to play more regularly was something I couldn’t turn down – I’ve taken that chance and now I’m looking to play as much as I can.
“It was obviously a shock at first – I played a few big games in pre-season but nothing can prepare you for the Premiership.
“But now I’m playing more and more, I find the pace less frantic and I’ve learned a lot about how to slow things down in this early part of the season and hopefully I’ll keep improving.
“It’s just about doing my basics really well – the game moves so much quicker and you’re under a lot of pressure so if you can do the simple things really well, that helps.
“Of course it’s always nice to try and create something for the team as well but for now I’m happy to nail down the basics and put in a good performance every week.”
Steele’s emergence has been a bright spark in a mixed season for London Irish, with the scrum-half helping his side claim an historic victory over his former club in round four before a run of six consecutive league defeats.
Yet after the Exiles stopped the rot with a win against London Welsh on Boxing Day, Steele is confident his side can draw on that triumph and their European form to build momentum – starting with a visit to Saracens on Saturday.
“It was a relief to get that first win at home this season against Welsh but we wanted to pick up a bonus point as well,” he added.
“However, to get three tries in those conditions was really good for us and gives us confidence to go forward after a convincing win.
“There were obviously a couple of games towards the start of the season that looking back on they were very close and we should have got the win.
“A win against Northampton Saints or Saracens would’ve been massive for us but then we had a few tough games and had to start in Europe with a few injuries so it stopped our momentum.
“But we’re top of our group in Europe and starting to turn things around in the Premiership so while we’re not looking too far in the future, things are looking up.”
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