Monye ready for Calcutta Cup bow
March 19, 2009
Ugo Monye will get his first taste of a Calcutta Cup tie on Saturday © Getty Images
England winger Ugo Monye will line up against Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday for his first shot at lifting the Calcutta Cup.
In a fledgling international career Monye has already experienced the ebb and flow of international rugby, making his debut against the Pacific Islanders during the 2008 autumn series before enduring a month of misery as England were dispatched with ease by Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.
As criticism grew and England's discipline became a mounting concern during the early stages of this season's Six Nations, Monye was forced to watch from the sidelines, a back injury picked up while on duty for Harlequins ruling him out of their opening win against Italy and subsequent losses to Wales and Ireland.
However, the timing of his return could not have been better. After Wasps wing Paul Sackey was dropped for the game against France last weekend Monye stepped in, forming part of a lightning back-three alongside Mark Cueto and Delon Armitage as England bounced back with a 34-10 win.
"Whether you win or lose it's always a close margin," he said. "Last Saturday all the things that we had worked on from the autumn, our patterns of play, continuity and shape all just came together. We probably got the bounce of the ball a little bit and the discipline obviously helped in defence, but we will need to step it up again come Saturday.
"Defence is always very tough when you have to retreat and you're getting busted in the line. We tackled well and won the collisions more times than not, that made it easier to get numbers on our feet and trust our systems. The only time you have doubts in your mind is when your line is consistently being cut, and fortunately that didn't happen to us."
England's performance was far removed from the ponderous efforts that they produced in the early stages of the tournament. They were ahead after only a minute thanks to a try from Cueto after a misunderstanding in the French defence, their confidence immediately lifted.
"It was massive," said Monye. "One minute in and we scored, that was great not just for us as players but also helped the crowd get behind us early. After singing the national anthem the adrenaline is pumping and from then on we really set a precedent.
"It was lovely day, the sun was shining and that played into our hands. The combinations have taken a while to come together but Sunday was probably the first evidence of the type of rugby and the potential we have in that back-line."
That potential will need to be displayed again against Scotland. While Frank Hadden's side have endured a difficult tournament they will come to Twickenham aware of the potential for catching an over-confident England off guard, retaining the Calcutta Cup for another year in the process.
"You've got to keep wanting to improve," said Monye. "It was a great victory but it has a full stop at the end. You have to look forward and Scotland are going to be a big threat to us, another big test at home and a great way for us to finish off the Six Nations.
"We've been really focused this week and as individuals and as a collective we have all improved. We've finally started to show what we can do but we can't pat ourselves on the back for too long."
England's pace-men had their moment in the sun against France and will be aware of the threat posed by a Scottish backline that has been well publicised during this Six Nations. The Evans brothers, centre Max and wing Thom, and Ulster's Simon Danielli have all impressed so far and will need marshalling if England are to emerge victorious.
Monye has personal experience of playing with and against the Evans brothers, and is well aware of their abilities.
"The Evans brothers are great lads, Max spent some time at Harlequins and Thom has had experience in the Premiership, we know all about them," he said. "They also have a very big, powerful pack and that gives them some great go-forward as well, they've got threats all over the pitch. We've had a great week of training and we're certainly not going into the game undercooked."
Ugo Monye was speaking ahead of Right To Play day on March 25th, a fundraising initiative from the international children's charity encouraging everyone who participates in sporting activity to donate £1 to create sport and play opportunities for disadvantaged children around the world. Right To Play are the official charity of British University Sport, to learn more visit www.righttoplay.org.uk or to donate text PLAY to 82010