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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 February 2008, 09:00 GMT
Leading the way in London
By Paul Fletcher

McCarthy-Scarsbrook is tipped to make a big impact in 2008
McCarthy-Scarsbrook is tipped to make a big impact in 2008
As a child growing up in London, Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook wanted to be a footballer.

He would play with his mates in the East End and dream of life as a professional.

But that all changed when he turned 16 and encountered an oval ball for the first time.

He soon realised his sporting ambitions would be better served on a rugby field.

"I got too big and too fat for football and starting playing rugby," said the 22-year-old, with just a hint of seriousness in his voice.

He joined amateur rugby league side Greenwich Admirals and soon came to the attention of the city's one professional team, the London Broncos, now known as Harlequins.

In the intervening six years, McCarthy-Scarsbrook has certainly been making up for lost time.

Just ask cross-code international Henry Paul, now a team-mate of McCarthy-Scarsbrook.

Paul, who has competed with some of the best the game has to offer, told BBC Sport: "Louie is potentially one of the great players I have played with.

He's a mad bloke off the field but on the field he's even madder... if you could bottle what he has, I'd like a shot of it myself

Paul on McCarthy-Scarsbrook

"I see a in him a lot of what I saw in Stuart Fielden and Denis Betts."

High praise indeed for a forward who is about to embark on a season that many view will be a breakthrough one.

Brian McDermott, his coach at Quins, certainly believes the prop has an excellent chance of ending the season in England's World Cup squad.

So what makes McCarthy-Scarsbrook so special?

Spend any time in his presence and his infectious personality and enthusiasm for the game quickly become apparent.

He is regarded at Harlequins as something of a joker - check out the photo that accompanies his profile on the club's website - and he doesn't lack confidence.

"He has a real hunger," added Paul. "He's a mad bloke off the field but on the field he's even madder. If you could bottle what he has, I'd like a shot of it myself."

But it is his attributes as a player that have persuaded many he could become the biggest star to emerge from the capital since Martin Offiah.

"He has got a lot of gas, a lot of pace. He is quicker than most outside backs," added Paul.

"He's got the size of a prop, but I think he'd been wasted there. He's probably like a really big second rower."

Mark McLinden, one of the most respected figures at Quins, has been impressed by McCarthy-Scarsbrook's all-round attributes.

Joe Mbu
Joe Mbu flew the flag for London-born talent before McCarthy-Scarsbrook burst onto the scene

"I think it will be a big year for Louie," the Australian told BBC Sport.

"He is keen to learn and physically he is fairly impressive. He can do the tough stuff in the front row."

McCarthy-Scarsbrook, who made his Super League debut in 2006, would probably have made more of an impact last season had it not been for a mid-season toe injury.

However, it is not just his potential as a player that marks him out but also the fact that, whether he likes it or not, he is part of a group of young players blazing a trail in London.

When London Broncos became Harlequins in 2005 following their link-up with the rugby union club, they made it clear that the development of home-grown talent would be crucial to their success.

And it is a great source of pride to the club that there are six players in Harlequins squad for the 2008 season who have come through the academy set-up.

"That is a big rap to the youth development work around London," added McCarthy-Scarsbrook. "They pick us up from everywhere now, so you had better watch out."

The man in charge overseeing the development of talent is player performance manager Phil Jones.

"It is a massive reflection on what the club and the RFL are doing," Jones told BBC Sport when asked about the significance of having six home-grown players in the squad.

"It is not tokenism and it makes a massive difference. It is very inspirational for kids and good for fans watching the game."

Let's fast forward 10 years when everything has hopefully gone to plan... at least 80-90% of our starting 17 will speak with a southern accent and have grown up with league down here

Quins coach Brian McDermott

In addition to McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Joe Mbu, Lamont Bryan, Tony Clubb, Michael Worrincy and Will Sharp are products of the club's academy system.

Five are from the London area while Sharp moved south from Bradford in 2005.

McDermott is confident that at least four will play a "handful of games" during the forthcoming season.

And he is impressed with the attitude of the younger players coming through.

He invited two players from both the under-18 and the under-21 squads to train with the first team in pre-season, telling them they could join as many sessions as they wanted.

They responded as he had hoped, turning up to every one.

The move to the licence system could further assist Quins in their mission to nurture more players on their doorstep.

With no relegation for three years, Quins would be able to invest more in the development of talent at a local level, further distancing the club from the once-held notion that they were a retirement home for ageing Aussies.

"Let's fast forward 10 years when everything has hopefully gone to plan," muses McDermott.

"At least 80-90% of our starting 17 will speak with a southern accent and have grown up with league down here, and the crowds will be full of people watching their local youngsters."

A pipe dream? Not if McCarthy-Scarsbrook and the rest of the London crew have their way.

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30 Oct 07 |  Harlequins


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