GLOUCESTER lock Dave Attwood admits he is still shocked by the stamping incident which threatened to derail his England career before it had even begun.
The 24-year-old was banned for nine weeks earlier this season after injuring La Rochelle prop Petrisor Toderasc during Gloucester’s Amlin Challenge Cup tie in December.
Attwood had only just forced his way into the international reckoning, making his debut in the autumn defeat at the hands of New Zealand, before seeing any hope of furthering his World Cup hopes stunted by his enforced absence from the Six Nations.
A late season surge of form with Gloucester has seen Attwood, who will join west country rivals Bath from the start of next season, catapult his way back into the England squad to face the Barbarians on Sunday, and the back row is thankful of the chance he has been given to impress.
“It’s been a real up and down season for me in terms of emotions and performances on the pitch,” Attwood told City A.M.. “To make my England debut was obviously a dream come true but to have that thrill taken away again was a huge blow.
“I’m still shocked when I look at the pictures of the damage I caused to be honest. Everyone who knows me knows it was an accident. I’d never intentionally set out to hurt someone to that extent but obviously there’s a side of my game I know I have to control.
“I never want to get to a situation where I’m known as someone who is a bit of a loose cannon in term of losing my discipline. I’ve worked hard and I’ve been talking to Carl Hogg, the Gloucester forwards coach who does a lot of psychology.
“It’s not about changing the way I play as such, it’s more about being able to control that spark when I’m being provoked.”
That hard work behind the scenes has paid off for a player who is highly regarded by Martin Johnson and his coaching staff, who took time out of their Six Nations plotting to reassure Attwood of his place in future plans.
“We talked about the consequences really, it was more of a practical nature than a mental assessment. We talked about the implications of what had happened,” said Attwood.
“It was a case of how they could use me in supporting the team throughout the Six Nations period. I certainly didn’t feel out of sorts in that England environment”
And a series of eye-catching performances in the upcoming Churchill Cup and subsequent warm-up matches could well see the 6ft 7in forward propel his way onto the plane bound for New Zealand in September.
“Getting in that squad has to be the target,” he added. “It’s been the sort of year for me which has proved anything can happen. But I know if I perform to my ability on Sunday and in the upcoming games, if I get a chance, I could be part of a World Cup squad.”
Two-for-one tickets for England v Barbarians at Twickenham Stadium are available for £25, with under 16 tickets only £10. Get yours from RFU.com/tickets or by calling 0844 8472 492.