England must thrive on the pressure
November 12, 2009
Uncapped Gloucester prop Paul Doran-Jones is on the bench for England's clash with Argentina this weekend © Getty Images
Hello, and welcome to Movember. For those of you who aren't familiar with this alteration to the calendar, Movember is now the month when all men who are capable (and in the interests of amusement, all who aren't) are invited to grow a moustache to raise money in aid of the Prostate Cancer Charity.
I am currently sporting a reasonably bushy but suspiciously ginger horseshoe 'tache, but have sadly been disqualified from the Wasps Best Mo Competition. Due to the very slow rate my facial hair grows, and a prior gentlemen's agreement with flatmate Rob Webber not to shave until I came out of the sling following my surgery, I was already sporting a healthy goatee which was trimmed, in direct violation of the very clear rules of Movember, that state that all participants must be clean shaven on the 1st of the month. Despite this, I shall continue in the spirit of the event and continue my bad impression of Lemmy from Motorhead.
This should also, hopefully explain to any that were wondering why many of the young Australian team all seemed to be doing their best impression of Gomez Addams when they beat England at the weekend. From the Australian point of view, they will be happy not just with the win, but with the performance of many of their young players, the pick of the bunch being Will Genia, who's man of the match performance will have reminded many of George Gregan. On the flip side it was a disappointing day for England as the Aussies have had a rough time of it lately and a victory would have been the first win over any one of the big three southern hemisphere teams since the Rugby World Cup quarter-final.
Now the challenge will be to pick each other up, refocus and prepare for Argentina, who pose a very different set of problems. Whilst they must be honest and critical in their analysis, I can only hope that the players don't put too much pressure on themselves as this can serve to only inhibit performance, and rather play with a confidence that will carry them through the inevitable difficult patches in the game.
A big talking point will also be the inclusion of Paul Doran-Jones on the bench. Paul was with London Welsh last year, and trained with us at Wasps but didn't break into the first team, and since moving to Gloucester in the summer has only four Premiership games under his belt. With this in mind many are already writing him off should he come up against the strong scrummaging Argentineans, but hopefully he won't be overawed with the occasion, and will grab the opportunity in front of him.
At Wasps, the team were also presented with an opportunity last week, namely the chance to make up for a poor performance against Leeds. There were many areas of the game where we were not at our best, and Leeds performed their game plan to perfection, but they also were just prepared to go that bit further than us and deservedly got the result.
There can't have been a better team to return to winning ways against however than London Irish, the team who inflicted our first defeat of the season, and get our Anglo-Welsh Cup campaign underway. Our next fixture is a home match against Gloucester, which will be important for both teams. They have struggled through the first part of the season, and whilst the last couple of weeks they have pushed strong Sale and Cardiff sides close, they still need a big victory to steady the ship and calm their supporters. We have to prove that we are capable of putting strong performances together, rather than occasional spikes, and so showing a consistency that is needed to succeed throughout the season.
I, at least so far, have managed to be consistent in my rehab in that I am still doing it everyday. Things are actually going very well, as I can now bear weight through my arm and my range of movement is improving by the day. That said, I have had some low points where I don't seem to be making any progress, and generally start to feel sorry for myself. This was put firmly into perspective when I was privileged enough to be invited to the PACE centre in Stoke Mandeville.
The PACE centre is a charity to help children with physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy, and the event I had been invited to was the culmination of the children's challenge, where the children had set themselves challenges, and practised to complete them, like a sports day of sorts. Seeing the looks of joy on the faces of these incredible children as they completed things that you or I take for granted, such as picking up beanbags or walking a few steps unaided, was simply inspirational.
There will be peaks and troughs through my rehab and the rest of my career, but if I can show just some of the strength of character and resolve that these young people display, then I'll be doing all right.
Wasps & England flanker Tom Rees writes a fortnightly column for ESPNScrum