Sharples primed for Wales challenge
August 3, 2011
Sharples is in line to make his Test debut against Wales this weekend © Getty Images
Rugby World Cup hopeful Charlie Sharples insists he is ready to step up to the international stage ahead of England's warm-up clash with Wales at Twickenham on Saturday.
The 21-year-old Gloucester speedster was initially called up to provide cover for the injured Chris Ashton but he has been the surprise package of England's training camp and is in line to make his first Test appearance this weekend.
The quickest man in the England squad, having clocked 4.82seconds for 40 metres, and described this week by squad-mate Ben Foden as "the fastest white guy I have ever seen", Sharples has made such an impression that he survived the first round of cuts and has overtaken both David Strettle, who played in the Six Nations, and James Simpson-Daniel in the pecking order.
Manager Martin Johnson will name his team to face Wales on Thursday - and Sharples is ready should he get the call. "I played at Twickenham for St Peter's, Gloucester in the Daily Mail Cup final in 2006. I scored a hat-trick in the semi-final and another in the final. That's where the 'Champagne Charlie' nickname came from!" Sharples said at O2's Get Up for England event.
"If I was to be involved this weekend and getting a cap would be the sort of thing dreams are made of. It would just be a fantastic occasion and I just have to keep my fingers crossed. I would never have believed at the start of the season that I would have got here but I feel like I am ready to play."
Speed is bread and butter to Sharples, who scored 18 tries for Gloucester last season and then starred for the Saxons in the Churchill Cup - but even he has been taken aback by the pace of his rapid rise into the senior England reckoning.
"It was just 10 weeks ago that I was finishing up the season with Gloucester and now I am in the England squad in the week of a Test match," said Sharples. "Once the ball starts rolling, it does go pretty quickly."
The England team is set to be captained by Lewis Moody, who missed the Six Nations with a knee ligament injury but is Johnson's choice to lead the squad into the World Cup. Delon Armitage and Matt Stevens are both in the frame to start while Johnson has also been impressed by the other two uncapped squad members - lock Mouritz Botha and centre Manu Tuilagi.
"To be out there and to get to play at Twickenham this weekend will be fantastic," Moody said. "It's the exciting part, you get a chance to play and go out on the pitch and do what you're paid to do."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
The All Blacks' form is not a peaking issue, but Hansen must threaten to wield his axe, to demand improvement, Craig Dowd writes
"It has been the World Cup that smashed down the gender barriers of the sport." Tom Hamilton looks back at a remarkable tournament
A selection of the best pictures from England's historic World Cup triumph in Paris as they beat Canada 21-9
The latest Week in Pictures takes in the Women's World Cup, the opening round of the Top 14 and the Rugby Championship