Simpson-Daniel would ‘say no to England’ if they called

In a brutally honest interview with The Rugby Paper, Gloucester winger James Simpson-Daniel has admitted that, at the age of 31, if England and Stuart Lancaster were to come calling he would turn them down.

After years of ‘holding tackle bags’ during England training sessions, the Shed’s favourite son has said that his main focus is now on securing a final deal with his club.

‘Sinbad’ has amassed just 10 caps in a tragically stop-start international career that is widely regarded as a waste of such an obvious talent. Consistently one of the most dangerous attackers in the Premiership (how often do we see him scoring, or being involved in, tries of the week/month/season competitions?), it is not just Gloucester fans that lament his lack of caps for his country.

His last involvement with the England set-up was in 2011, when he was cut from Martin Johnson’s training squad before the final round of warm-up friendlies. While he does not expect a recall, Simpson-Daniel admits he is likely to turn down an approach from Lancaster if it came.

“I’ve had a lot of years of going down to England training on a Sunday night and holding tackle bags and wearing tackle suits and then coming back to Gloucester on the Tuesday, and never getting the appearance on the weekend for the international team,” he told The Rugby Paper.

“There was a lot of back and forth, back and forth. Thankfully, it never really affected me, I’ve always been able to just concentrate on the club. England has gone now. Even if they’d come along last season I’m not sure if I’d have been available. I’ve got a young child now and another on the way and I’m quite happy here. I’m really happy just playing for the club.

“You never say never but even if every winger dropped down and they rang, even then I don’t think I’d be available.”

While he is still as pacey and prolific with ball in hand as ever – witness last weekend’s beguiling burst and offload for Elliot Stooke’s try – he had to undergo two shoulder operations last season, and is starting to feel the pressure of the end of his career. Whilst there has been outside interest in the past, notably from across the Channel, Simpson-Daniel says he is perfectly happy to see out the rest of his career in the West Country.

“I’ve started to think about it now. I’ve still got this season on my contract and I’d certainly want another one, it’s just how long – whether I go for a two-year or three-year,” he said.

“The argument is that until I got injured halfway through last season, I was playing arguably my best rugby, as close to the best I’ve ever done in my career. If I can stay fit and get my form good this season hopefully that will line me up for another two or three years.

“That would take me up to 33 or 34 and for a winger there’s going to be a moment when the young lads come in and your body and mind are probably going to start to slow. But I’m not there yet. The closest I’ve ever been to leaving Gloucester was at my last contract negotiation. I looked around a French club but I was relieved and happy when I made the decision to stay.

“I’d like to stay here. If I’m happy with what the club offer me then I don’t see why I wouldn’t stay, unless something changes on the outside. I love it here, it’s my 13th season. I’ll always be happy here.”

England’s loss has certainly been Gloucester’s gain, and you sense the likelihood of him not re-signing for the next few seasons is very, very slim.

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

15 thoughts on “Simpson-Daniel would ‘say no to England’ if they called

  1. “I’ve had a lot of years of going down to England training on a Sunday night and holding tackle bags and wearing tackle suits and then coming back to Gloucester on the Tuesday, and never getting the appearance on the weekend for the international team,”

    He forgot to add ” ….. and watching the international wingers picked in front of me not score a try”

    OK, injuries and durability have obviously played a part, but it’s not like George North, Julian Savea and Israel Folou have been keeping him out of the team all these years. I hope he’s got a few seasons left in him.

    1. To be fair I began to think this a few minutes ago. Who was in front of him that meant he didn’t get picked? Whilst I think he is a good player, when he broke through, Cohen, Lewsey and Robinson had the back three tied up, and were all better players. Then Cueto had a very successful international career, and then Ashton broke through and looked very impressive.

      Who else was there that would have been keeping him out the team? I certainly wouldn’t play him over any of them when they were playing well.

        1. Whilst every Englishman should hang their head in shame about that; I’m pretty sure most of those caps came in the center under Johnson?

          Other wingers like Sackey, Monye, Voyce, Strettle, Varndell etc. have been capped in that time but all when they were on particularly good form. Only Sackey (22) and Monye (14) have more caps.

          So whilst I think JSD is a good player, were there that many occasions when he was genuinely overlooked when he should have been a shoe-in?

          1. Sackey v JSD. English rugby vs Welsh rugby IMO. Shane Williams would never have made it in England – too small, not physical enough, too unpredictable, doesn’t play the plan, etc. JSD suffered in the same way. If JSD had been Welsh he’d have more caps.

            Of course the irony of this in contrast to how Welsh wings are now doesn’t escape me…. although I would dare to say that North at least has the possibility to show both skill and size. It would be ironic if next year we had Cuthbert/North lining up against Wade/?

            1. Haha that is true. North is a freak though; nobody should be that skillful and that big.

              To be fair to Sackey, he averages a try every other game at international level, and at the time, was starting and scoring tries for fun at Wasps (when we were good and stuff!)

              Whilst I agree that JSD should have more caps, and may have done had he had less injuries; I don’t think its as much of an outrage as everyone else seems to.

          2. He scored 2 tries in his last 2 tests and hasn’t been capped in 6 years since. To not get a look in under the Johnson era was a really poor decision. Although I can understand Lancaster looking for guys that are still likely to be available for 2015, you can make a good argument for JSD being selected ahead of a lot of the likes of Strettle, Monye, Ashton (on form), Sharples, Foden & Brown (as wingers). Especially with there being a try drought in those positions at the time.

            It’s a shame that we will never know if he could have made it as a top class international.

            1. I’m not sure about the Johnson era – it was always Ashton and Cueto under Johnson and they were both very good players. Ashton then couldn’t stop scoring and I really like Cueto as a player. A lot of the players you mention are during the SL era, and he has made it clear that players won’t be picked if they aren’t available in 2015 which JSD won’t be.

              It is probably 2004-2009 that were the times when JSD was most likely to be given a shot – it is weird that he hadn’t been as he is a clear try scorer.

              1. Actually, Strettle and Monye got their caps under Brian Ashton, Ashton and Foden were well picked undeer Johnson, Sharples’ first cap came under Johnson before the world cup and Mike Brown played against South Africa in 2008 (though I’m sure he’d rather pretend he wasn’t in that game).

                JSD has had some bad fortune. His injuries are high on the agenda there, but it is unavoidable to say that he’s had some poor form (unsurprisingly) to go with it. His selections for England often came off the back of injuries and he never really shone and it’s been a shame, but I wouldn’t blame any of the England coaches that didn’t pick him. When you’ve got a few tried and tested wingers and the amazing JSD comes in and has a go and doesn’t gel quickly, you risk losing games by having that uncertainty. The other thing we don’t see is how players are in training. If they don’t fit the coach’s game plan and they can’t follow it, there are people that can

              2. Agree Ashton was on great form under Johnson (he wasn’t capped until almost halfway through the Johnson reign though).

                Cueto is a decent player, but he did go 25 games only scoring a single try under Johnson (before his 3 against Romania) I can’t say this is locking the position down. Cutting him from the RWC ’11 squad was a poor decision (he’s a great option for a 23 shirt as a min)

                Agree his time had passed given Lancaster’s policy on 2015 availability. It’s a bit like Nick Easter in that he still compares favourably with the guys that have been selected instead.

  2. Seems only yesterday that the shout from the Shed to the exciting young lad on the wing was “Come on James Double Barrelled Son”.

    He definitely deserved more caps, but have to say that his injuries always came at completely the wrong moment, when squads were being announced, just when he’d had a good game, etc, etc, so even as an ardent JSD supporter, I look at this and say it wasn’t all the management’s fault.

    However on the plus side, that means more game time for Glos – brilliant.

  3. I always thought he was a pretty decent player, and I wouldn’t have been aggrieved had he been included in some of the England squads in the past. Unfortunately though, when you look at some of the wingers who were also playing for England in JSD heyday – Sackey, Robinson, Cueto, Monye and Strettle under Brian Ashton it is fair to say that he lost out to some pretty good talent for what was around at the time. Basically, whilst his selection could have gone either way, unfortunately it just always went the WRONG way for him.

    He should have got in under Johnson for sure, (arguably in place of Cueto who was on a bit of a try famine) but it just didn’t happen. It’s a definite shame, but nothing more.

  4. You’re comparing genius with worthy plodders like Cueto. No one else can do what Sinbad does. Even a Bath player Stuart Barnes said that he was too good to play for Johnson’s dreary England

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