A few weeks on from being cut from the England World Cup squad and my feelings haven’t changed. I’m gutted, but I sleep well at night knowing I did everything I could. I took the opportunity that came my way and gave it everything. I can’t control selection, but I gave Stuart Lancaster and his coaches something to think about when they probably weren’t expecting a selection headache. I feel more sorry for the guys in the squad who didn’t get game time and the chance to show what they can do, despite all the hard work they put in – Kyle Eastmond springs to mind.
I admire Stuart for his selection. He has been building for this since 2012 and he has his gameplan in mind. I’m glad I was able to force my way into the reckoning, but now we just have to support the team. I’m confident in my game, but there are still areas I want to improve on. Given more time in the England set-up, I know I can take the opportunity to get back in there. I got the chance to get two more caps, learn more about the players, learn more about the coaches – it was a valuable experience for me.
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I’m still really up for the World Cup whether it’s as a fan or an injury replacement.
I don’t wish harm on anyone, but the reality is, I’m only one injury away from being in the squad. Mentally, I’m still switched on and prepared to be involved in this World Cup. I can’t let up for one second because if I do get called in, I need to be up to speed immediately
I’m back with Sale now, but even during my weeks off I was training hard because there’s always a chance that call will come and I want to be sharp if it does.
The way things work out with Sale, I’m probably not going to get to watch the opening game because I’ll be travelling, but I’ll be getting all the updates. I’m an England fan. I won’t get the same type of nerves watching as I would playing, but I’ll be excited and glued to all the England matches and any others I can catch. I watch rugby to learn. I enjoy it, but for me it’s about learning, taking stuff away and trying to replicate it myself.
After my time in the squad, I know the players are confident. There are a lot of world-class players in there and with the advantage of home soil, it right to be optimistic about England’s chances.
I’m not saying the players are sitting there saying ‘we’re going to win the World Cup’, but I don’t see how you can go into a World Cup thinking it’s not possible. What would be the point in turning up? They’re not being arrogant, but it’s seven games – you’ve got to think you can win seven games or why are you even going? That’s not arrogance, it’s just the right mind-set. These guys mean business.
England go into the tournament with a wealth of talent at number 10. I wouldn’t rank one higher than the other – they both have different skills that will be useful at different times. Owen Farrell is very battle-hardened and George Ford is very skillful – they’re two fantastic players and whoever Stuart goes with, it doesn’t weaken the team.
I got to spend a lot of time with Sam Burgess during camp and it’s remarkable how good a fit he is into the squad. He was always making good points in team meetings. He’s got a big-game winning mentality and he’s great with team spirit. He’s got such self-assurance and he oozes leadership, but at the same time, he’s like a sponge – he wants to learn as much as he can. His defending is extremely good. If you run at him, you’re going to get hit hard. Whoever plays alongside him, we should have a really strong midfield.
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There’s always nerves when you represent your country, but in a World Cup on home soil it will be a different level. The coaches have them very well-prepared, now is the time to go and show it. That’s the thing that stood out to me in camp – the level of preparation that went in from all areas of the coaching set-up.
Stuart has brought a real culture of trust. It’s impressive. They boys are in a really strong position.