The rationale behind Martin Corry's desperation to participate in England's ill-fated trip to Australia earlier this summer was twofold: as captain, he was desperate to make personal amends for the collective failures of his side in the Six Nations Championship; as the first-choice No 8, he wanted to ensure he kept the lid on rivals such as Lawrence Dallaglio and Pat Sanderson. Dallaglio dropped out, but Sanderson travelled - as captain. Unsurprisingly, Corry is uncomfortably aware of the difficulties he faces over the next couple of months.
"There have been two Tests in Australia since I last played for England, and the people who featured in those rightly consider themselves the current internationals," the Leicester forward said yesterday. "It's up to me to play myself into the side for the first of the autumn Tests in November. If I'm offered the captaincy again, I'd jump at it. But I have to prove myself worthy of a place in the team."
Sanderson poses a meaningful threat, although he offered little evidence in Wallaby-land that he is a better No 8 than he is a flanker. When Andy Robinson, the head coach - or, depending on the divvying up of responsibilities, Rob Andrew, the Rugby Football Union's newly appointed élite director - decide on the captain for the All Blacks game on 5 November, they will do so with a view to him doing the job through to the World Cup in just over 12 months' time. It is a delicate decision.
Corry has just enjoyed his longest rest since he turned professional a decade ago. "Do I feel different to this time last year, when I'd just come back from the Lions tour? Not at this precise moment, because I've just been flogged through a very hard training session," he said. "But the break has done me good. I didn't feel in need of rest, but once you stop you realise how much you've taken out of yourself."
Unlike last year, when he was at the centre of a rumpus between the RFU and the clubs over the statutory 11-week rest period for international players, there is no question that he will appear in Leicester's opening match of this Premiership campaign, against the champions Sale on Sunday week. "Sale were very deserving of the title last season," he said, before adding darkly: "I'm glad we have them first up."
* The England fly-half Olly Barkley will face no further action after a brawl in Newquay, Cornwall, last month. Police arrested Barkley and two other men after a fight during a night out on 30 July. A man had his jaw broken in the incident. Barkley answered bail yesterday and was released with no further action.Reuse content