Cambridge scrum-half Kieran Duffin thrives in National League One after stint in Australia
When Cambridge went on their six-match winning run in National League One this winter, a striking feature of that form went under the radar.
The try-scoring exploits and last-line defence were all rightly lauded, while the structure and stability of the set piece garnered praise, but the direction provided from scrum-half barely received a mention.
In some ways, it was perhaps in keeping with the low-key style that has surrounded Kieran Duffin since he moved to Volac Park.
The 25-year-old signed in the summer of 2018 on his return to the UK after playing for two years for Palmyra in Western Australia.
Nimble, sniping, sprinting and darting No 9s easily catch the eye to draw praise – think Faf de Klerk for Rugby World Cup winners South Africa – but the control, discipline and organisation during a game is just as important, if not quite as headline-grabbing.
And Duffin provides that in abundance, though is perhaps not as widely appreciated as he should be.
His formative rugby years were spent at Milton Keynes, but from there he went to Wasps and then became part of the Bedford Blues academy, going out on loan to Ampthill in National League One.
It was a different direction that followed in 2016 as Duffin headed Down Under to play for Palmyra, one of the Premier Grade rugby clubs in Perth, and an experience that led to appearing at the World Club 10s for Western Force in Mauritius.
“I always wanted to go out there, I’ve got an uncle that lives in Perth so I’d been there before, knew I wanted to play there and I liked the whole way rugby is played in the southern hemisphere,” he said.
“It’s quite expansive, they throw the ball around a bit so that’s why I ended up out there. It’s a huge emphasis on attack, so great fun.
“The lifestyle was great over there, but I’m loving my rugby here at Cambridge so it’s going really well.”
With contrasting styles to the way the game is played between the two hemispheres, there were slight adjustments needed to his game on Duffin’s return to the UK.
“Because of the conditions we play in during the winter months, it is territory based and you do have to nail your roles,” he said.
“As a No 9, kicking is massive. The box kick and the execution off those type of scenarios.
“I feel that one of my strengths is my kicking game, so you just rely on it a bit more.”
Another key element that particularly stands out is the control he exudes over the forwards, knowing when to leave them to it, what to say and when to intervene.
“I enjoy bossing them round a little bit,” said Duffin, who is training to be a carpenter.
“I’m quite vocal off the pitch as well. The forwards go through a lot of graft during a game so I suppose it’s just keeping your eyes up and putting them in the right positions.
“With the 10s outside us we’ve got at the club, it’s easy really as we look after that and they guard us as well.
“I like to think I bring quite a bit of control to the game, my kicking game and organisation skills I think are pretty good.”
There was also a great rivalry for the No 9 jersey at Cambridge, with Duffin, Fin Creighton and Rhodri Adamson all bringing slightly different skill-sets, approaches and styles to the game.
“There is quite a bit of competition with me, Fin and Rhod but it’s all great fun because we all get on and it’s good just pushing each other to see who can get the jersey,” explained Duffin.
“You don’t want to be somewhere there isn’t the competition for the shirt.”
It may have been a premature end to the season, but it will no doubt be one that Duffin will be able to look back on with pride to help Cambridge kick on.