Dave Walder insists that Jonny Wilkinson's domination of the fly-half spot will not deter him from trying to win a spot in Clive Woodward's World Cup squad.
Walder lines up in tonight's Churchill Cup final against the United States here knowing that England's recent victories over New Zealand and Australia have reaffirmed his Newcastle team-mate's place in rugby's hall of fame. That leaves Walder in the mix along with the recovering Charlie Hodgson, Alex King, Paul Grayson and Olly Barkley for a fly-half berth in the 30-man squad for Australia, which will be announced by Woodward on 8 September.
"If I had a pound for every time someone talked about me and Jonny in the same sentence I'd be very rich," said Walder, who wears No 15 for the Falcons when Wilkinson plays at fly-half. "But I'm used to it. From the age of 18, when I roomed with him playing for England Schools against Japan, he was obviously special. He was a year younger than me and playing two years ahead of me.
"We are good friends and he has helped my game a lot. I love Newcastle and have just signed a two-year deal. I can't do anything about Jonny. All I need to worry about is playing well in whatever position I am in."
Walder would settle for a repeat performance of his last visit here two years ago, when he scored 29 points including two tries in a 59-20 victory over Canada. This time the Eagles stand in the way of Jim Mallinder's side lifting the inaugural Churchill Cup - a re-match of last Saturday's pool match which England won 36-10.
ENGLAND (v United States, Churchill Cup, Thunderbird Stadium, today): I Balshaw (Bath); M Cueto (Sale), B Johnston (Saracens), H Paul (Gloucester), J Simpson-Daniel (Gloucester); D Walder (Newcastle), M Wood (Bath); A Sheridan (Sale), A Titterrell (Sale), W Green (Wasps), A Brown (Gloucester), A Codling (Saracens), P Anglesea (Sale), D Hyde (Leeds), H Vyvyan (capt, Newcastle). Replacements: P Christophers (Leeds), O Barkley (Bath), M Worsley (Harlequins), P Greening (Wasps), D Flatman (Bath), C Jones (Sale), P Volley (Wasps).
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