It was a very frustrating start to the England World Cup training camp for me. I was delighted to be named in the 45-man squad but knew I would start behind everyone else as I needed a long-overdue knee operation.
I had a number of dates pencilled in for the operation, but once we lost the Aviva Premiership semi-final, I knew it would come within 48 hours of the Heineken Cup final.
The surgeons took half the cartilage out from the inside of my left knee, so it meant I couldn’t take a full part in the rugby sessions for the first few weeks.
missing even one training session so when the squad got to together at Pennyhill Park in June it was killing me standing on the sidelines watching them. I know it will be for my benefit in the long run but that hasn’t helped my level of frustration.
It was made worse because of the way Martin Johnson laid down the law when we first arrived. He left us in no doubt – if it was needed – that none of us was guaranteed a place at the World Cup.
He said if you don’t pay attention, if you don’t switch on now, you will fall between the cracks, and someone else will take your place. He said to go and get a taxi if you aren’t ready to work hard, which meant that the lads were using this in every training session, taking the mick. If someone did anything wrong someone was guaranteed to say, “You’re falling through the cracks” or “Go and get a taxi!”
Johnno means every word of it and we all know – in all seriousness – if we drop off at training we’ll be on our way home. Why would anyone who knows Martin Johnson think he was joking!
I regard it as a massive honour to be involved in my first World Cup squad. I was glad to be there and be in the room with the rest of the lads. I think it’s good to have new faces around the squad and a lot of them are really young. Johnno actually called up seven wingers, which I thought was unusual, so in my position the competition is very high. A few of those, like Matt Banahan and James Simpson-Daniel, can play other positions of course, but it’s still competition for me.
As usual I’m sharing a room with Ben Foden. I’m always with Fodes so when I arrived at the hotel I didn’t even need to ask. It’s even the same room we were in through the Six Nations. We were bored with the first one so asked to change. They put us in one which is the same but with the layout reversed!
My injury meant I was on the sidelines in one sense, but that concept doesn’t really exist with England at the moment, so instead of getting out on the pitch I’m confined to the marquee that’s been erected at the hotel for our fitness work.
They have all these horrible machines – rowers, skiing machines, weightless running machines and spinning bikes with a rowing wheel – specially adapted for us. I’d love to meet the guy who invented them as he needs a good talking-to.
If you’re injured, it’s no excuse to sit in your room all day, that’s for sure. The training is intense, but that’s what you need if you’re going to play for your country. There are no questions asked and if there are… you can order yourself a taxi.
This article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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