Rugby Union: Green puts the pain behind him

Paul Trow talks to the Wasps prop who has had to learn a powerful lesson
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The Independent Online
INTERNATIONAL debuts have been known to come a little easier, but Will Green is not complaining. Back in November, the 24-year-old Wasps tight-head won his first, and to date only, England cap in the 15-15 draw with Australia. The game was undistinguished in most respects, but for Green it was a disaster.

The young prop, tough but by no means a giant, found himself packing down against one of the game's mightiest figures, the New South Wales loose-head Richard Harry who enjoyed at least a two-stone advantage over his "green" opponent.

The England man was in difficulties from the start, the front row struggled throughout and, to add injury to insult, Green hurt his back and was subsequently sidelined for six weeks. "To be honest, I got a pasting that day," said the wiser but not much older Green whose gradual return to fitness and form is a crucial element in the revival which has propelled Wasps into this Saturday's Tetley's Bitter Cup final against Saracens.

"After the Australia match, I refocused and I hope I've gone on from that experience. Obviously, it was part of a learning curve and I had things to work on. I want to become a much better player and I'm in the right environment to do that with people like Phil Keith-Roach and Phil Larder [two of England's coaching team] to help. But it was a hard lesson to learn. I didn't feel great, and I didn't feel like talking to him [Harry] afterwards."

As if a blistering dose of Harry's game was not enough to set Green back from his ambition to become "a top-class all-round prop", there were also whispers that he had gone into the match knowing about his injury. He insists, though, that nothing could be further from the truth. "I was fit to play - my back went during the game."

Green's frustration was not confined to his harsh introduction to the international game. Wasps were putting up a far from impressive defence of the league title and for much of the season have been confronted by the spectre of relegation. "People were saying that we'd lost it this season but throughout our bad run we've retained our respect for one another. The atmosphere in the squad has been terrific, and we're a young side which should get better," said Green, who joined Wasps in 1993 as an England schools cap and part of a rich intake which included Andy Gomarsall, Nick Greenstock, Jon Ufton and Peter Scrivener. "Perhaps we were not as strong or as prepared for this season as we thought we were, but suddenly we realised that the key to our success last season was hard work and we have since put together a great run.

"Getting to the final has turned our season round. We can still win a trophy and the competition for places has given us all motivation and energy. I've never experienced anything like the training sessions we're having at the moment."

Leading the way, of course, is the England captain, Lawrence Dallaglio, from whom Green unashamedly derives inspiration. "Lawrence has done fantastically and I have nothing but the utmost respect for him. The amount of pressure he has dealt with has been amazing and yet he's without doubt one of the best players in the world."

Naturally, Green would welcome an early return to the England fold for this summer's tour to the Southern Hemisphere, but he confesses the thought is only at the back of his mind. "I always have short- and long-term goals in my life," said the marketing graduate from Oxford Brookes University. "My short-term goal is to win the cup, and my long-term goal is to play in next year's World Cup - but I'll only start thinking about it after Saturday.

"I've only played at Twickenham twice before but it's a fantastic place and I can't wait to get there again. Believe me, we're all really up for it."