IAN LAMONT on the international call-up for a rugby player made in Croydon
Another benchmark for sport in Croydon will be made tomorrow, when Marland Yarde runs out in an England shirt at the Velez Sarsfield stadium in Buenos Aires to win his first international cap.
The 21-year-old London Irish flying wing’s selection for a Test debut against Argentina was rendered inevitable a couple of weekends ago when Yarde crossed the whitewash at Twickenham for the first try in the England XV’s win in the practice game against the Barbarians.
Yarde played at Whitgift in what is looking like a well-polished golden generation. Among his team mates in the double Daily Mail Cup-winning side was Elliot Daly. Daly was somehow overlooked by England coach Stuart Lancaster for the tour to South America, but was good enough to make it into the Baa-Baas’ international all-stars side and also scored a try at Twickenham on the same day as Yarde.
Back in their school days, and usually on the other wing from Yarde in that Whitgift first XV of a couple of years ago was Lawrence Okoye. Whatever happened to him?
The inclusion of Yarde against Argentina puts him in the side along with Kyle Eastmond, Bath’s precocious former Rugby League player, and makes it England’s youngest back division since the last century.
“It has definitely got an X Factor to it,” Lancaster said of his back line selection.
“Marland has shown in training and in the games that he is ready for this chance. If you look at the stats at the end of the season and compared all the wingers and back three players, he is right up there in terms of defenders beaten, metres made and line breaks.”
Lancaster, suitably for a rugby coach, neatly side-stepped Yarde’s tackling abilities, often a key attribute of a rugby wing.
“What strikes me about Marland is his work rate off the ball and his desire to get his hands on the ball. He is not the type of guy who is just going to stand on his wing and wait for the ball to come to him,” Lancaster said.
Yarde certainly packs a punch. He returned passes with fly-half Freddie Burns to set up his try at Twickenham, as Lancaster highlighted, hunting for the ball inside the wing position before darting through a gap to score himself in style, showing agility and speed.
In a game in which size and scale counts for much, Yarde has worked hard at London Irish to make the most of his physique. “He’s closer to 100kg than 90kg, which means he can bump people off as well as run round them,” Lancaster said.
And with the back-three positions in the England squad looking less settled than a year ago, Yarde might yet bump people off the team just in time for when England host the 2015 World Cup.
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