Strettle relishing new lease of life
February 10, 2012
England winger David Strettle caught the eye during his side's opening Six Nations victory over Scotland © Getty Images
England winger David Strettle has explained how his Rugby World Cup heartache inspired a return to top form and eventually the Test match arena.
Strettle was deemed surplus to requirements by former England boss Martin Johnson on the eve of last year's Rugby World Cup without even giving him a chance to impress in the warm-up matches. That career setback followed the disappointment of missing the 2007 World Cup and the 2008 Six Nations after twice breaking the same metatarsal.
Johnson's decision to cast him aside untested left Strettle at rock bottom just months after he had helped Saracens win their first Aviva Premiership title. But Strettle responded to the setback in such style that he forced his way into Stuart Lancaster's plans and then back into the England team.
"I had six caps until last year. My lowest point was probably at the World Cup when I got released from the squad," the 28-year-old Strettle said. "Everyone has patches in their career where they have missed out through injury. I knew if I kept working hard I'd get my chance again.
"My form had been good with Sarries. I felt I warranted an opportunity to have a chance to impress in the World Cup warm-ups and it never came. I felt I had done everything I could and I was quite down. But once it has happened, you are not going to become a better player by dwelling on it. You have to use it as stimulus to push on. It is great to be back in the mix now. It was a great occasion last weekend to pull the shirt on."
When Lancaster was selecting his 32-man elite squad for the Six Nations he had three wings - Strettle, Ugo Monye and Matt Banahan - pressing for one place. The strides Strettle had taken since his England exclusion, the way he had picked himself up after being knocked down, won him the place - and still does.
"David's inclusion was really on the back of his form at the time of selection. Around that time, he played well in the Big Game [for Saracens against Harlequins] when I watched him," Lancaster said. "When he got into the squad, he then had to get into the team. It came down to a question of him, Chris Ashton or Charlie Sharples. Again David Strettle really stepped up to the mark. He offered an improved physicality in defence, work-rate off the ball which perhaps he hadn't [previously] put as much attention to and then his point of difference, which is beating players."
Strettle did not get much opportunity to do that against Scotland last week but England are looking to build on that 13-6 win and showcase their attacking game better against Italy.
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