- Bath Rugby lock eager to capitalise on second chance with England
- “I’m a more complete player than I was before” – Attwood
“But then the rug gets pulled out from underneath you and you’re standing on the tile floor thinking perhaps it not it’s not so nice here anymore.”
Recalling his first experience of international rugby three years ago, Dave Attwood is crystal clear on why he will do everything in his considerable power to stay this time.
Open, honest and even pragmatic – to borrow his own word – in conversation, the Bath Rugby man says he has matured as a rugby player and that there is no better place than Argentina to demonstrate his qualities to Stuart Lancaster.
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A big, dominant and abrasive lock – but subtle to enough to call the line out – Attwood was handed an international debut by Martin Johnson, peerless among English second rows, as a replacement against the All Blacks in 2010.
The 115kg then-Gloucester player was predicted in many quarters to become a fixture in side for years to come. However, it did not work out that way, the combination of a ban and injury keeping him out for eight months in 2010/2011, ceding any momentum after his debut.
But Lancaster broke his international hiatus by handing him the number five shirt and a first ever Test start in the 32-3 victory over Argentina in Salta last weekend.
And with reference to the Attwood of 2010, his rationale of what he can now offer England as they travel on the inexorable path to Rugby World Cup 2015 is two-fold, both shaped by his realistic and uncomplicated demeanour.
While describing the current Argentina tour – a nation where commanding forwards are celebrated above all others – as “tailor-made for him”, the 26 year old first outlined what he can bring on the field.
“I’m a more complete player than I was before, perhaps an element of the youthful exuberance where I used to run around with abandon has died out in favour of being a bit more pragmatic,” he explained.
“But that goes a long way to pushing the team in the right direction. You need players in the team who are going to run awesome lines, offload and run quicker than everyone else, but that’s why Christian Wade is here. People like me are here to bring a big physical edge, stop people in defence, move us forward in attack and deliver an extremely good set piece.”
In addition to this, Attwood has a firm grasp on what Lancaster is getting at when he places attitude, character and adherence to a player-driven culture, where leaders model the correct behaviour for others to follow as the binding forces of his squad.
Photo: Getty Images
More comfortable with his place in the game and acknowledging what it means to play for England, he said: “I’m much certainly a lot more aware of my standing within the squad and what I can bring to the party, not perhaps like I was back then – when I was going along with the ideas and not necessarily having my own standpoint.
“Maybe not in terms of caps in this squad, but in terms of performances in the Premiership I’m very experienced and I need to bring that to the dressing room. That has a very significant part to play and it’s about utilising how I can be effective with that.
“I’m also much more aware of what it means to represent England. When I was involved last time an element of me was carried along with the hype and thinking 'isn’t this great, isn’t this wonderful, this is all so fast, hopefully it will continue'. But then the rug gets pulled out from underneath you and you’re standing on the tile floor thinking perhaps it not it’s not so nice here anymore.
“Getting a chance to come back means an awful lot and it means you’ll give every inch to ensure you stay. The EPS squad is announced in a couple of weeks [after the tour] and while there’s not a lot I can do to stamp my name in the books, I can do a lot to impress Stuart with my behaviour around the squad.”
With clarity over why he wants to be here, Attwood is excited by the potential of a young group which is brimming with talent and an eagerness to get better in equal measures. Using the first Test victory as a pertinent example, he explained why standards are high and set by performances not results.
Attwood, who played a significant role in disrupting 12 of 19 Argentina line outs, with turnovers there leading to possession for the three first-half tries, added: “The victory was very exciting but we were very deliberate in how we dragged ourselves back down from that.
“There was a large portion of the second half and a bit of the first half that were not up to scratch. Yes we scored 30 points in a Test match away from home but we’re not getting carried away and no one feels like they’ve achieved anything yet.”
But win the second Test in Buenos Aires on Saturday and Attwood and co. will have achieved something tangible – becoming the first England team to win back-to-back Tests in Argentina. And if he turns in another dominant performance in the air and on the ground, Attwood might find the rug under his feet for the foreseeable future.