- Parling reminisces over past 12 months with England
- Lock not surprised at return of Tom Croft to Elite team
With the steely focus he has applied to the entirety of his 15-game England career, Geoff Parling says Stuart Lancaster’s side cannot look too far ahead with Italy the next challenge at Twickenham on Sunday.
The Leicester Tigers lock played for the England Saxons until 12 months ago when he was called into the Senior group at the seminal Leeds training camp as injury replacement for domestic team-mate Louis Deacon.
The 29-year-old impressed during training at West Park Leeds and emerged off the bench to close out victories in Scotland and Italy in the 2012 RBS 6 Nations, before starting the next match against Wales and every Test thereafter.
Having arrived late to Test rugby Parling relishes and respects the elite environment he is now involved in, which in turn means he is preparing for the Italy game with the same intensity of any opposition, regardless of England’s record of 18 wins from 18 matches against the Azzurri.
“I’ve enjoyed being part of the squad in this environment, I’ve been very lucky to get my chance and I want to keep taking it and play my part,” said the former Newcastle Falcon.
“I don’t really look back at all, I’m thinking about the game at the weekend and not looking further ahead than that either.
“You’ve got to approach Italy like any other game but I’d much rather be favourites than underdogs - that’s good pressure to have. If we think about other games or think we’re just going to turn up and win then we’ll come unstuck.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
“But I don’t think that’s what this team or this squad is about: we’ll do our analysis, try to train well, get out there and try to perform, because there are certainly areas of our game we want to fix up.”
Parling starts his 14th successive Test match against Italy, packing down alongside Joe Launchbury for the sixth time as Lancaster looks for consistency in the engine room of his pack.
In leading England’s line out, Parling takes responsibility for its success or failure and he spoke in the immediate aftermath of the win over France at Twickenham about his disappointment in losing possession three times on their own throw.
But after analysing the tapes Parling believes the concession of line out ball against France was under England’s control, as opposed to being as a result of outstanding play from the opposition, and therefore can be remedied by re-focusing on doing the basics well.
He said: “The last couple of games [against Ireland and France] we’ve played two good packs but there have been times when we’ve needed that composure under pressure and needed our detail to be perfect – and it hasn’t been.
“You can handle losing the ball if another team ‘s defence is up really well but if we’ve ever had a problem it’s been through our drills being slightly off. So we’ve stripped it back to basics and concentrated on doing the simple things really well.
“Some of accuracy needs to be better, that’s the challenge for us this weekend.”
Parling’s Leicester Tigers team-mate Tom Croft has made a remarkable return to the England bench for the clash with Italy, eight months after a serious neck injury sustained in the Aviva Premiership against Harlequins.
The 27-year-old, who has played 36 Tests for England, has only appeared five times for his club since the potentially career threatening injury but Parling is not at all surprised by the speed of his mate’s recovery.
Parling added: “I know Crofty really well and to be honest I’m not surprised at all by how good he’s been on his return, given the type of character he is. You can see what he brings in training already, he’s a quality player and it’s really good to have him back in the squad.
“If you’re worried about things and you’re thinking about injuries in the back of your mind – then you just can’t do it. He said that in one of the games he got a pretty bit hit early doors and once you’ve taken one of them and you’re fine, you know you’re back involved.”