Patience the new game for Simpson-Daniel

James Simpson-Daniel co-owns a racehorse called Leitrim Rock with his father. Not that this is a tipping service, but the inside info from the Gloucester wing is to resist investing in a win double on his club to take their Heineken Cup quarter-final at Wasps today, and his four-legged friend to romp home at Warwick on Tuesday. Simpson-Daniel fancies Gloucester's chances, albeit they are second favourites at the home of the English champions. It is Leitrim Rock that he is less confident about.

James Simpson-Daniel co-owns a racehorse called Leitrim Rock with his father. Not that this is a tipping service, but the inside info from the Gloucester wing is to resist investing in a win double on his club to take their Heineken Cup quarter-final at Wasps today, and his four-legged friend to romp home at Warwick on Tuesday. Simpson-Daniel fancies Gloucester's chances, albeit they are second favourites at the home of the English champions. It is Leitrim Rock that he is less confident about.

The horse's record of no wins in six races is the subject of much banter among the Cherry-and-White fraternity. Simpson-Daniel is happy to learn the ropes - and the costs - of a being an owner. While the team-mates keep nagging, the nag in question has had a six-month rest, a change of yard to Tony Newcombe's in Devon, and a shift up in distance to a mile and a quarter. "We've tried the carrot, and we've tried the pig-prodder up the backside," Simpson-Daniel said, with a smile.

There is a poignant background to all of this. Simpson-Daniel had made a pact with his friend, Nick Duncombe, the Harlequins and England scrum-half, to buy a horse. When Duncombe died just over a year ago, Simpson-Daniel resolved to carry on. "I'm planning to buy a yearling or a two-year-old, and it'll be named after Nick in some way, probably something to do with Queenie. That's what I called Nick. He had a London accent, and we used to have a laugh about the Queen's English."

Simpson-Daniel was a novice 18-year-old when he played in Gloucester's only Heineken Cup semi-final, a narrow defeat by Leicester at Watford in 2001. He joined the Cherry-and-Whites from Sedbergh School with all the right breeding, as the second of four rugby-playing brothers, and his career was cantering along nicely when he earned his England cap against the All Blacks in November 2002. But he was pipped at the post for a place in last year's World Cup squad: No 31 or 32 in the declarations for a final field of 30. Simpson-Daniel stayed with Gloucester, and watched on television as England took the Webb Ellis Cup.

"The real impact was when the full England squad met up for the Six Nations," he said. "I walked in the room, and it hit home that it was different to beforehand, when I had been with them, building up for the World Cup. It was strange, I've got to admit that. It's definitely a mental thing. You see them and you try to put yourself in the same category as them. But everyone round the table had won the World Cup, and done fantastically to win it, and there were a couple of us who weren't part of it. Clive Woodward said publicly afterwards that every one involved in the lead-up contributed to winning the World Cup, but I don't feel the same."

A rib injury prevented him staking any claim in the opening Six Nations matches in Italy and Scotland, and for the past few weeks the man they nickname "Sinbad" has been floundering in choppy waters. This is when Woodward - though clearly a fan of one of the country's most naturally gifted players - is said to earn his keep. "Clive phoned me up before the third Six Nations game, against Ireland," said Simpson-Daniel. "He said, 'James, I'm going to put you straight on the bench, I want you raring to go'. For him to do that - when he could easily have put me in the A game - was a confidence thing."

And, as with Simpson-Daniel's equine pursuit, he is coming to understand that patience is crucial. He was annoyed he didn't do more in a half-hour substitute appearance against the Irish, and Woodward cautioned him over when to go in as first receiver, and when to let others do the work. Against Wales and France, Simpson-Daniel was confined to the bench, with the World Cup back three of Jason Robinson, Josh Lewsey and Ben Cohen holding sway. "I look at it very plainly," Simpson-Daniel said. "Yeah, it's my aim for the future to get in the starting line-up, but I couldn't beat myself up because I wasn't starting ahead of those three."

Gloucester have Duncan McRae and Henry Paul to do their playmaking and, like England, deploy Simpson-Daniel on the wing. "James has got very special ability and skills that make him different," said Nigel Melville, the Gloucester director of rugby, "but, no matter who you are, you have to learn to be a professional. You can't be a one-trick pony, so to speak. He's started kicking for almost the first time, and he's been working on the high ball and other defensive aspects."

Wasps and their famed blitz defence did for Gloucester in convincing fashion in last season's Zurich Premiership final, but McRae and Paul are in the mood to set Simpson-Daniel and his fellow wing, Marcel Garvey, roaming free. "The Heineken Cup is like the Champions' League - the sides you play against are the best in Europe," said Simpson-Daniel, and it is a view echoed by Lawrence Dallaglio, the Wasps and England captain, who cheered Chelsea to victory at Arsenal in midweek, and met Roman Abramovich afterwards.

Whoever makes it to the winner's circle this afternoon will take on Munster or Stade Français in the last four, in either Dublin or Paris. "If we can get through these games and lift the cup, we know we'll have deserved it," said Simpson-Daniel.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
James Hewitt has firmly denied being Harry’s father
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
peopleDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
tvReview: Top Gear team flee Patagonia as Christmas special reaches its climax in the style of Butch and Sundance
News
people
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?