DAVE WALDER insists that Jonny Wilkinson's world domination at fly-half will not deter him from trying to win a No 10 slot in Clive Woodward's World Cup squad.
Walder lines up in Saturday's Churchill Cup final knowing that England's recent victories over New Zealand and Australia have reaffirmed his Newcastle team-mate's place in rugby's hall of fame.
That leaves Walder in the mix along with the recovering Charlie Hodgson, Alex King, Paul Grayson and Olly Barkley for a fly-half berth in the 30-man squad for Australia, which will be announced on September 8.
"If I had a pound for every time someone talked about me and Jonny in the same sentence I'd be very rich," said Walder, who wears 15 for the Falcons when Wilkinson plays at fly-half.
"But I'm used to it. From the age of 18, when I roomed with him playing for England Schools 18 A against Japan, he was obviously special. He was a year younger than me and playing two years ahead of me.
"I can't do anything about Jonny. We are good friends and he has helped my game a lot. I love Newcastle, it's my home city and I have just signed a two-year deal. All I need to worry about is playing well in whatever position I am in."
After a season in which he has played 220 minutes of rugby following a broken leg in a pre-season match, the 25-year-old is just happy to be back on the field again.
"I was told that I was going to be out for six months and then for a year. In the end it was eight-and-a-half months," added Walder, who scored a superb chip over the defence try against the Barbarians last month.
"I was out for a long time and though I was not told that I might never play rugby again, you never know until you get back on the pitch.
"As far as the World Cup goes I haven't given up hope but having had the year I have had I'm not expecting to be in - but you never know.
Walder would settle for a repeat performance of his last visit to Vancouver, when he scored 29 points, including two tries, in a 59-20 victory over Canada in the suburb of Burnaby two years ago.
This time the US Eagles stand in the way of Jim Mallinder's side lifting the inaugural Churchill Cup - a re-match of last Saturday's pool match which England won 36-10.
"I am excited because I didn't play last Saturday. I'm still a bit short of match practice but I have been back in training for a while and done all the fitness," said Walder.
"A lot of things went well last week but a lot of things went badly and this is a good chance to put them right. We scored early on and maybe the players started to forget their roles. We need some more direction and to play more like we did against Canada."
England (v USA, Thunderbird Stadium, Vancouver, 28th June, 4pm PST, midnight Saturday BST): I Balshaw (Bath); M Cueto (Sale Sharks), B Johnston (Saracens), H Paul (Gloucester), J Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester); D Walder (Newcastle Falcons), M Wood (Bath); A Sheridan (Sale Sharks), A Titterrell (Sale Sharks), W Green (London Wasps), A Brown (Gloucester), A Codling (Saracens), P Anglesea (Sale Sharks), D Hyde (Leeds Tykes), H Vyvyan (capt, Newcastle Falcons). Replacements: P Christophers (Leeds Tykes), O Barkley (Bath), M Worsley (NEC Harlequins), P Greening (London Wasps), D Flatman (Bath), C Jones (Sale Sharks), P Volley (London Wasps).