Simpson lucky to get the call – but this speedster is no ordinary Joe

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The Independent Online

Assuming that Joe Simpson, born in Sydney to a mother from New Zealand but raised in the home counties of England, makes his international debut for the country of his choice in Dublin on Saturday, he will not join the likes of Jon Webb, David Egerton, Richard West and Joe Worsley in materialising at a World Cup in an uncapped state. He will, however, be an unknown quantity – as much to Martin Johnson and the rest of the red-rose hierarchy as to the opposition.

"Martin gave me the call when I was back at Wasps doing some extra training," said the 23-year-old scrum-half when asked how news of his inclusion was broken to him. "There was a whole mix of emotions, but the main one was ecstasy. It really blew me away. I rang my parents immediately and they were even more excited, if that was possible."

Contrast this with Simpson's feelings in the early summer of last year, when a twanged hamstring on the eve of departure cost him his place on the five-match tour of the Antipodes.

"That," he said, "was a learning experience. Since then, I've worked very hard on making myself, and keeping myself, fully fit. I missed only two or three game for Wasps last season and I'm determined not to let injuries get in the way of my international career."

It is safe to assume that Danny Care was thinking along similar lines until he mangled the tendons in his left big toe during the second of England's warm-up matches with Wales. Having started the day in pole position to reclaim the No 9 shirt for the opening World Cup game against Argentina, the Harlequins half-back ended it with his tournament ambitions in shreds. Such is the way of it in a sport as overwhelmingly physical as rugby union.

"I've sent one message to him and I'm planning to send him another," Simpson said, aware that Care's misfortune and his own good fortune are inextricably linked. "I feel gutted for any player who finds himself in his position, and as I've known Danny since I was 17 – we've played together in the past and we worked closely with each other throughout the summer camp – I feel really bad for him. I'm just hoping he recovers quickly, because he has a glittering England career ahead of him.

"My job now is to soak up as much information as I can, so I can really push for a place and make sure I'm in a position to show what I can do if I get on the field. Yes, I'm uncapped, but a lot of our recent training has been game-specific, and anyway, there's a difference between a player coming into a squad absolutely fresh and one who has been involved all the way through the Six Nations and right through the summer.

"I know the moves, I know the patterns and I know what we want to achieve as a team. I also know that I'm desperate to represent England at this level."

Simpson is unusually fast; indeed, his breaking speed from the base of the scrum and off the back of the line-out is easily the most eye-catching of his virtues. He has not, however, been the quickest thing in camp over the last couple of months.

"We had the speed gates up, testing us over 10, 20 and 40 metres," he revealed. "The fastest were Charlie Sharples and Ugo Monye." Did they make the cut? Did they hell. It is possible to be too quick, especially when an old lock forward is the man doing the selecting.