RENDERED powerless to influence England’s ultimately forlorn Six Nations title challenge, Harlequins speedster Marland Yarde has resolved to avoid a repeat of that painful scenario during this autumn’s home World Cup.
There remains work to do, though. Yarde failed to feature in any of head coach Stuart Lancaster’s matchday squads as England recorded their fourth successive championship runners-up finish, a sequence last week described as “unacceptable” by Rugby Football Union chief Ian Ritchie.
By definition, Ritchie’s comments suggest places remain up for grabs, although Yarde appears to have slipped out of Lancaster’s closest circle of wingers since a productive tour of New Zealand last summer.
He made only fleeting appearances from the bench during the autumn Tests, while the likes of Semesa Rokoduguni and Jonny May seemingly usurped the 22-year-old before also descending the pecking order.
With the position viewed at the start of the domestic season as the most open selection challenge facing the England hierarchy, Anthony Watson and Jack Nowell are now the men to dislodge, post-Six Nations.
Yarde turned out for the second – string England Saxons against the Irish Wolfhounds in Cork in January and plans to initially target the summer’s extensive training camp, acknowledging that his charge towards the World Cup cannot afford to stall.
“The Six Nations was pretty hard to watch because I’m desperate to play for England,” Yarde told City A.M.
“I’ve been in and around the squad for the last couple of years and I wanted to be in there. Watching the guys I’ve trained with and seeing how England’s attacking game has come on, I wanted to be a part of that but it provides a good driver for me.
“It’s a massive honour and there is a lot of pride playing in that England shirt. I look back with a lot of fond memories but it’s not something I look at and think is over.
“I’m certainly not ruling myself out making the World Cup squad. I want to get back in that England team as soon as possible but it’s up to me to make sure I play well in the remaining games for Harlequins and get there.”
St Lucia-born Yarde crashed over the whitewash twice during a dazzling Test debut back in 2013 as England routed Argentina 51-26 in Buenos Aires – securing a first away series victory against the Pumas for 32 years.
He kept his place for the victory over Australia in November of that year before injury struck and ruled him out of the remaining autumn fixtures, while a hip tendon problem accounted for the 2014 Six Nations.
Yarde returned for the New Zealand tour last summer, scything through the world champions in the second Test in
Dunedin after brushing past formidable All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw.
A second touchdown followed in the dead rubber in Hamilton as he ended the tour as England’s leading try-scorer. Yarde has not started since. Does he feel hard done by?
“It’s not my place to say,” added the former London Irish paceman, who has scored six tries in a debut season for Harlequins.
“There are some fantastic players in the Premiership who have been playing well for their clubs and have been given opportunities to represent England. People get dropped and have to work their way back into teams all the time. It’s part and parcel of professional sport. How you react and how you get yourself back in quickly is what defines your character.
“I set my own standards and, being the competitor I am, I want to ensure I am always playing at the top of my game. I’m not fussed what other people are doing, I care about what I can do and can control.”
Seven-cap Yarde’s latest audition may not have advanced his case. Quins were outgunned 42-14 by Saracens at Wembley last Saturday, despite director of rugby Conor O’Shea welcoming back his England contingent.
Quins are not bereft of England representation, with Lancaster’s captain Chris Robshaw, full-back Mike Brown and loosehead prop Joe Marler all but assured of World Cup places. Scrumhalf Danny Care will hope for redemption following his telegraphed autumn pass to South Africa centre Jan Serfontein, while there is the curious case of veteran Nick Easter.
The 36-year-old forward provided cover during the Six Nations and became the oldest try-scorer in championship history when he crossed the line against Italy – feats Yarde believes can be replicated at the World Cup.
“He can definitely do that,” said Yarde. “Somebody returning to the England squad at the age of 36 is pretty rare, but playing and training with him you realise his qualities. He has a great knowledge of the game. He knows what he’s talking about and he knows what he wants. For a 36-year-old he is very fit and I’m backing him to get into that World Cup squad.”
Clifford Chance is the Official Law Firm of Rugby World Cup 2015. Visit www.cliffordchancerugby.com to learn more.