Champagne Charlie praises mentor
January 13, 2012
Charlie Sharples will hope to make the most of his opportunity with England © Getty Images
Gloucester wing Sharples' nickname - 'Champagne Charlie' - was borne from a hat-trick of tries he scored in the 2006 Daily Mail Schools Cup final at Twickenham. Sharples, now 22, also notched a treble when Gloucester-based St Peter's School won their semi-final that year, and the progression many admirers knew he had in him has been realised with his selection in England's new 32-man elite player squad.
Sharples, though, readily acknowledges the role played in his rapid rise to the top by Gloucester colleague Simpson-Daniel. Simpson-Daniel, who will be 30 later this year, would unquestionably have won more than the 10 Test caps he collected had it not been for a series of savage injury setbacks.
The rugby world was his oyster when he famously turned Jonah Lomu inside out while playing for an England XV against the Barbarians at Twickenham in 2002. But although he has amassed 113 tries in Gloucester colours from 223 starts, Simpson-Daniel's international career chapter appears destined to remain unfinished.
Different in size and shape they might be, yet the lanky Sharples has many of Simpson-Daniel's traits, notably blistering pace, a prolific try-scoring prowess and an ability to generate the "wow" factor. "With players like James, you just have to watch and learn stuff," Sharples said. "He has always been really helpful to me and helped me with my development. He was my favourite player growing up, and then suddenly you find yourself playing alongside him.
"He has been incredibly unfortunate throughout his career with England. Even during the World Cup camp last summer he was unlucky to pick up a few little niggling injuries that stopped him showing his full potential. I have always believed that being at Gloucester is a club where you can move forward and push yourself on into the England squad.
"It is surprising, though, how quickly it can all move. When I first joined Gloucester when I was 18 I wasn't thinking that in four years' time I would be playing for England. I just wanted to play for the Gloucester first team, and once I had broken into the first team I wanted to be a regular. Then once you are a regular and playing well, you want to be pushing for England Saxons.
"Getting called into the Saxons squad at the back of last season, and then two months later getting a full England cap shows it does happen very quickly. This is where I always wanted to be."
Sharples was summoned to join England's pre-World Cup training camp as injury cover for Chris Ashton, and he went on to make his Test debut against tournament warm-up opponents Wales before missing out at the final selection cut when then manager Martin Johnson named the New Zealand-bound squad.
"It was disappointing not to go to the World Cup, but looking back I was really happy to get as far as I did and get my cap," he added. "I wasn't expecting to be in the pre-World Cup camp. I had a holiday booked at the time, but I was delighted to get the call.
"I went into it with open eyes. Everything was new to me, but I enjoyed every minute of it. It was great to be rubbing shoulders with some of these top international players. I learnt a lot, and I think I definitely came out of it a more confident player. After being involved last summer, I'd had a taste of it and I wanted more.
"It is always a fresh start for the next four-year cycle after a World Cup, so I was kind of hoping I could put my hand up and put myself forward to be in the mix. I set this as my target coming off the back of the World Cup. That was my goal - to push on and try to get back into the mix this year. I am just really happy that I have managed to do that.
"You always want to be moving upwards and progressing, and I feel that is happening with my rugby. It is very exciting, and I am looking forward to meeting up with everyone. It's a new sort of start."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Following the passing of Jack Kyle, Huw Richards pays tribute to arguably the finest player Ireland has produced
"When Mike Burton was sent off I thought the world had gone crazy - just Pommy bashing, hitting anyone." Behind the Rose heads back to 1975
The time for tinkering is over - England must nail their colours to the mast in key positions, writes Phil Vickery
"New Zealand-born Joe Schmidt has forged the Irish into a street-smart, well- prepared side," John Mitchell on the Irish renaissance