When Dave Attwood burst onto the scene in late 2009 for Gloucester, people sat up and took notice. So much so, in fact, that the following summer he was called into the England squad for their tour to Australia, before eventually winning his first cap against New Zealand in the autumn. It is strange, then, that three years on he has only four senior caps.
What happened? Firstly, there have been a series of unfortunately timed injuries – the latest of which occurred just a few weeks ago, as he was again producing some great form to take him confidently barrelling into England’s autumn series.
“Yeah, timing doesn’t seem to be my strong suit,” he chuckles. “I do seem to get injured at the wrong time, but I had to make the most of it – you can’t control when you’re going to get injured and when you’re going to be fit.”
His return from this latest setback came on Friday night, when he formed part of a Bath front five that steamrolled over their West Country rivals Gloucester for a win that ended up being closer than it should have been.
“I had an opportunity to play on Friday night and I had to go out there and put myself in the best light possible,” he notes. “I feel like I made a strong case – hopefully that will be enough.”
The second part of his failure to amass more England caps comes in the form of a lengthy ban for stamping on the head of Romanian Petrisor Toderasc in an Challenge Cup Match in December 2010, just weeks after he had made his England debut. Attwood admits it was a traumatic time for him, but says he is a better player now for having gone through the experience.
“You have to take experiences like that and move forward,” says Attwood, matter-of-factly. “It’s an important part of who I am, I can’t take it away but I would hasten to say that I’ve moved on from then, and I’m a better player now because of it, and because of the learning that I was forced to go through as part of that.
“I would definitely say that it has helped me mature quicker as a player, and adapt to new styles of the game.”
Certainly, Bath fans are reaping the benefits of Attwood’s new maturity this season, as he has formed part of a pack of forwards that have chewed up and spat out pretty much everything in their path so far this season. So what, exactly, have they been putting in the water down there all of a sudden that has seen such a transformation take place from the powder-puff unit we saw at times over recent seasons?
“I think just a bit of maturity is one of the main things,” says Attwood. “Obviously changing coaching set-up, and having quite a few squad changes over the past few seasons, haven’t helped to gel the group together, but I think last year we were an impressive pack who didn’t perform as regularly as we should have done.
“Having a bit more time together and with the coaches has meant that we’ve ironed out the problems, so we’re replicating some of the performances we were able to put out last season on a much more regular basis.”
Now all Attwood wants is the chance to translate that form from the blue of Bath to the white of England. We chatted before the news broke that Geoff Parling would miss the Australia game, so while he admits he is definitely the underdog in the second row ranks, it turns out he will almost definitely be featuring at some point this weekend.
“I think it’s fair to say that I’m probably the underdog in this situation,” he says, “but if anything that gives you a bit more enthusiasm to fight.
“Geoff had a wonderful tour out with the Lions and is someone who’s very much in credit, Courtney Lawes is playing out of his skin and is tearing people apart, and Joe Launchbury is the resident shirt holder. So essentially, although I’m going well in the Premiership, I haven’t earned anything in terms of England colours.”
He didn’t realise it at the time, but with Parling now out he has his chance to earn something this weekend against Australia. With the line-out guru gone there is a chance he could even find himself in the starting line-up, given his fulfilling of that role at Bath, and if so we all know how much ‘credit in the bank’ means to Lancaster in terms of keeping your spot from one game to the next. Attwood will be hoping to fill his account this weekend.
Get the latest behind-the-scenes news from David Attwood and his England teammates with O2 Inside Line, the weekly show from O2 – proud sponsor of England Rugby – and the RFU, at www.O2InsideLine.com
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images