- Geoff Parling outlines the importance of victories this autumn
- “We must play our own game and remember what England are about” – Parling
When Geoff Parling looks back over a rugby season which has seen him gain a first Test cap and become a firmly established cog in England’s engine room, the lock admits that at the outset his ambition was just to complete a game of rugby.
Parling has started England’s last six Test matches didn’t have any international expectations at the start of the last campaign, given at that point the Leicester Tiger was battling back from a second knee injury in two seasons.
In typically down-to-earth North Yorkshire fashion, there is no chance of the former Newcastle Falcon getting carried away with his success, with the lineout specialist’s feet remaining firmly on the ground.
Photo: Getty Images
The 28-year-old said: "12 months ago I was still injured so I was just wanted to get through a first game of rugby again.
"And now [after being included in England’s Senior EPS for first time] you don’t want to get too far ahead of yourself. There is a lot of hard work to come and putting it in for your club is first and foremost.
"If you can do it week-in-week-out in the Premiership and Heineken Cup, England will take care of itself.”
Allied to his role leading the England lineout, an appetite for hard graft has been a hallmark of Parling’s eight Tests under Stuart Lancaster. In South Africa this summer, the 6’ 6” lock made 19 tackles and hit 24 rucks per 80 minutes, against tour averages of 11 tackles and 19 rucks for all second rows per game.
While acknowledging the overarching importance of building towards the Rugby World Cup in 2015, Parling is keen to emphasise the importance of winning games at the highest level of international sport, arguing that acclaim and accolades are insignificant by comparison.
Photo: Getty Images
But tempering his nagging frustration after two defeats and a draw against the Springboks this is a newly acquired invaluable appreciation of what it takes to compete against best after his first experience facing one of the southern hemisphere giants.
"We came away with a draw and a lot of people said we showed great character to react in the way we did after the first two defeats but the thing that really niggles, especially for me, is that we still didn’t get a win," he said.
"We certainly learnt a lot more about them, how they play and what we can do – but at this end of rugby, that is not enough. It’s the winning that matters and I know there is the bigger picture but as a player you learn the harsh realities of sport in terms of what can happen in the next game or the next training session, so it’s all about having won your last game."
Fiji, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand come to Twickenham for the inaugural QBE Internationals in November/December this year, with Head Coach Lancaster’s stated aim being that England – currently fourth in the world rankings – are rated number two by the end of the series.
Photo: Getty Images
And Parling believes England can achieve the wins to make that possible by learning from South Africa: stick to what they are good at and impose their game plan on home turf, while targeting the opposition’s strengths by working as a team.
"We need to play for 80 minutes as at this level every little mistake will get punished. We fronted up well but we need to make sure that we play our own game and remember what we’re about, what England is about, and execute that sort of style.
"If you look at how South Africa were talking themselves up beforehand, and fair play to them they won the series 2-0, what we did learn is the things they pride themselves on.
"From say a forwards perspective, their driving maul, I felt that we really flew into that and it just shows that if you can go into the game with the right attitude and everyone is doing it together then you can get it right."