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