Will Stuart hopes Bath form can make him key man for England

Stuart wants to become England’s established number three in time for the next World Cup in Australia in 2027.

Anthony Brown
Wednesday 20 December 2023 18:16 GMT
Will Stuart is intent on becoming a regular starter for England (David Davies/PA)
Will Stuart is intent on becoming a regular starter for England (David Davies/PA) (PA Wire)

Will Stuart hopes involvement in Bath’s resurgence this season can help in his quest to become England’s first-choice tighthead prop.

The 27-year-old was delighted to go to a first World Cup earlier this year but frustrated at starting just one match at the showpiece in France – the Bronze Medal victory over Argentina – and being left out of the 23-man pool entirely for the knockout clashes against Fiji and South Africa.

As he enters what he hopes will be his peak years, Stuart is determined to stake a strong claim to get ahead of 36-year-old Dan Cole and Kyle Sinckler in the pecking order and become England’s established number three in time for the next World Cup in Australia in 2027.

The former Wasps forward – who has won 33 caps since his debut against France in the 2020 Six Nations – threw himself straight back into club rugby after the World Cup and has helped Bath make a strong start in both the Gallagher Premiership and the Investec Champions Cup.

“Every player wants to play in a World Cup and the next one in Australia is a massive goal for me,” Stuart told the PA news agency.

“If my career ended now, I’d say ‘I achieved a little bit, I won a few caps for England and played at a World Cup’ but realistically I haven’t won silverware, I haven’t played in multiple World Cups and I haven’t really solidified myself as a starting tighthead for England, so there’s a lot I aspire to do.

“I played in three of the group games (as a substitute) and then missed out on the quarters and semis, which was a frustration.

“But it’s been pretty clear from chatting with the coaches what my work-ons are and what I need to do to be a first-choice tighthead for England.

“If I’m playing well for Bath and can contribute to a winning team, that falls into giving myself a good opportunity to push on with England as well.”

In addition to his own form, Stuart’s bid to establish himself for England will be influenced by how long veteran Leicester tighthead Cole can soldier on.

“The way Coley plays, I reckon he could play until he’s 54,” joked the Bath forward. “He’s great, he was great for me during the World Cup and it’s impressive that he’s still playing at that level at 36.

“He’s on 107 caps for England and played 300-plus games for Leicester and he’s been starting and playing 70-odd minutes for the majority of that so he’s a good person to look up to.”

With the Six Nations looming in the new year, Stuart feels England have huge potential for further growth under Steve Borthwick after defying pre-tournament scepticism to reach the World Cup semi-finals.

“I think we were written off a lot during the World Cup,” said Stuart.

“Draw-wise we probably had an easier route to the quarters but we ended up taking South Africa to one point in the semi-final and until the last 20 minutes we were all over them, so I think that is something to massively build on.

“Including the Six Nations and the lead-up to the World Cup, the coaching group probably only had about a six-month period to really work with the team and, with that in mind, we had a way of playing where we knew we could basically get to knockout rugby.

“When we got to that stage, it was always going to be fine margins and we were one point away from the final.

“I think the coaches have been very clear on the areas where we can push on and make massive strides to get back to where England have been in the past.”

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