Charlie Sharples has been hailed this week as ‘the fastest white man’ Ben Foden has ever seen, and ‘a very impressive young man’ by Martin Johnson. We managed to grab five minutes with him at Pennyhill Park at the launch of O2’s Get Up For England campaign.
“It’s been a great year for me” Sharples began with an understatement. “I’ve really enjoyed being part of the setup, and I’m pleased to have been around for as long as I have. I came here at the start and didn’t have anything to lose. I was a late call-up coming in from the Saxons, so I just wanted to knuckle down, do my best and see what happened. I’ve managed to get through the first lot of cuts and hopefully I can continue to stick around.”
With James Simpson-Daniel and David Strettle released from the squad on Monday, the odds on Sharples travelling to New Zealand are dramatically shorter. Chris Ashton, Mark Cueto, Ugo Monye and Matt Banahan represent the competition on the wing, and whilst there’s a chance they’ll all be on the plane, it would seem that either Sharples or Monye will travel.
“Hopefully I’ll get a chance on Saturday, but obviously there are still four wingers in the squad, so I don’t know what will happen.” This comment suggests that Banahan is being considered solely as a centre, which could increase Sharples’ chances even further.
Spirits at the O2 pie-making event seemed very high, with plenty of banter and pastry flying around the mocked-up Masterchef kitchen. “A lot of the boys have been together in the team for the best part of a year now” said Sharples on life in camp. “Some of them have been around a lot longer than that, and most of this team has been together since Australia last year. I’ve managed to come in and I haven’t found it too hard to settle in. The boys are really welcoming and it’s been really good fun.”
“I was rooming with Sinbad for five or six weeks, but I’ve now moved and I’m in with Davey Wilson. That will be nice to get to know someone new. Obviously, I know Sinbad from the club, and I will miss him – we had a good thing going on there, and I’ve been a bit down since he’s been gone, but it was good to be in a room with him when I first came along and didn’t know anyone. He helped me a lot.”
“I haven’t had a chance to speak to him because he was up at Tins’ wedding at the weekend. I just dropped him a text, and he wished me all the best and hoped I’d get a run, as he would, that’s the sort of bloke he is. It’s obviously sad to see a club member and someone you look up to having a bit of bad luck.”
With thoughts now turning to England’s warm-up matches, the focus is on putting all those weeks of training into a game situation.
“The trial match (held behind closed doors at The Stoop last Friday) was interesting. Playing in the stadium with obviously no crowd and zero atmosphere, and then obviously playing against people you’ve been training with, doing a full-on match, warming up separately and having our own changing rooms was all a bit weird, but it was good.”
“You can’t replicate a lot of things we’ve worked on unless you take them into an environment like that, and we had to do that to achieve what we wanted to achieve.”
Saturday’s game against Wales will give us a better idea of how England are shaping up. There are rumours that Johnno has already selected 95% of his 30-man squad, and whether Sharples will make the cut remains to be seen. As the fastest man in the camp though, his pace and talent could be just what England need, and we’ll be hoping he gets a chance to demonstrate his cutting edge in the white or black of England this month.
Charlie Sharples was speaking at an England team appearance to launch Get Up for England, with O2. Support the team and win a trip to New Zealand at www.GetUpforEngland.co.uk