James Simpson-Daniel may well be the centre of attention for England against Canada today, yet the Gloucester flyer cannot help but think of what should have been. Had the past 12 months not been so riddled with injuries then the 23-year-old could easily have been facing Otago with the Lions rather than being 7,500 miles away in Edmonton and light years apart in class at the Churchill Cup.
For it was not long ago, three years in fact, that Simpson-Daniel was widely touted as an England star in the making, particularly after leaving no less than Jonah Lomu in his wake en route to a stunning solo try against the Barbarians at Twickenham.
However a run-in with another All Black giant, Joe Rokocoko, at Dunedin last summer, followed by prolonged shoulder and hamstring problems, have meant that it just hasn't happened for Simpson-Daniel. He hopes that run ends today.
"It has been a miserable year and at times very difficult. The injuries came at bad times, just before the autumn internationals and then in my first game back," he said. "It meant I missed all the major internationals. At the time you ask yourself how has this happened again, why has this happened again.
"Andy Robinson told me I was thereabouts, and that just makes me think about what might have happened had I played in the Six Nations and performed. You never know, I might have been selected to go with the Lions. In the end I was miles away from that, and you just have to learn to pick yourself up.
"My hopes are still high for the 2007 World Cup. I just need to stay fit and get a run of games, starting here. Being selected is vital, because it means you're still in their thoughts and there's a chance for selection in the autumn."
Simpson-Daniel is the only member of a jet-propelled back division behind the two Andys, Goode and Gomarsall, to have been capped, while Tom Palmer, Chris Jones and the captain, Pat Sanderson, are the only internationals in the England pack. Nevertheless, it would take a major shock or a catastrophic lapse in concentration for them to lose to a Canada side who have lost three of their few professionals since losing 60-3 to Wales last week. The winners face either Argentina A or the USA at the Commonwealth Stadium next Sunday in the final.
Canada: D Daypuck (Castaway-Wanderers); K Witkowski (Pacific Pride), M King (Balmy Beach), J Cannon (Coventry), S Richmond (Vancouver RC); R Smith (Brampton Beavers), M Weingart (Pacific Pride); D Pletch (Oakville Crusaders), A Abrams (Castaway Wanderers), F Gainer (Trinity Univ), L Tait (Ospreys), C Yukes (Agen), M Webb (Swilers, capt), A Carpenter (Brantford), S McKeen (Pacific Pride). Replacements: P Densmore (Vandals), I Exner (Castaway Wanderers), C Dunning (Pacific Pride), M Burak (JBC Old Boy Ravens), S-M Stephen (Oakville Crusaders), E Fairhurst (Univ of Victoria), N Witkowski (Coventry).
England: S Vesty (Leicester); P Sackey (Wasps), J Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester), C Bell (Leeds), U Monye (Harlequins); A Goode (Leicester), A Gomarsall (Worcester); P Freshwater (Perpignan), G Chuter (Leicester), S Turner (Sale), L Deacon (Leicester), T Palmer (Leeds), C Jones (Sale), P Dowson (Newcastle), P Sanderson (Worcester, capt). Replacements: L Mears (Bath), R Morris (Northampton), S Hooper (Leeds), J Forrester (Gloucester), P Richards (Wasps), A Erinle (Wasps), T Voyce (Wasps).Reuse content