WHEN I failed to make England's World Cup squad last year I honestly thought that was my last international chance gone.
People have been asking me about England again at the start of this season – but I really don't think I will have another opportunity.
And honestly, if the call came, I think I would now probably say no.
Don't get me wrong, I've always loved playing for England.
But I have had too many years of joining up with the squad in midweek, holding a tackle bag for a day or two, and then heading home.
When I was younger I was desperate for every scrap of an opportunity.
Now things are different: I have a family and time spent with them is precious.
If you're holding tackle-bags, then occasionally on the bench and occasionally getting a game, that's great.
But I went a long time not being anything – holding a bag, being sent home, then being called back the next week to do the same thing again.
Obviously you have to wait for your chance, but I think I had a lot of time never quite getting that reward for all the training.
And that probably contributes to this feeling, that I would not want to go through all of that again.
In all likelihood this may never become an issue – England are building for the future and good for them.
But maybe it can help improve and extend my time at Gloucester – I would certainly love that.
Preparing for a Gloucester game one week a few years ago, I got a last-minute call from England to join up with the national training squad.
I got in the car and started heading up to the camp, as you naturally would.
On the way up I got a call from Dean Ryan, Gloucester coach at the time, telling me to turn around and come back to the club.
Dean understood my situation, and some of my frustrations, that were very private at the time.
He knew it was tricky spending one or two days with England in the middle of a week, then returning to Gloucester to re-join preparations for a weekend club match.
And in this particular week he felt he really needed me – so he called the England management and agreed that I would stay with Gloucester.
When I got that phone call I worried that I might get caught up in some kind of club-versus-country problem.
But Dean handled everything brilliantly, and everyone was happy enough with me staying at Kingsholm.
That was right in the middle of the difficulties between the clubs and England, and since then the big agreement between the two parties has resolved a lot of troubles.
That instance was just one of many where I felt torn between trying to take a chance with England, and trying to help Gloucester as much as possible.
I would never retire from international rugby – someone with 50 caps and a World Cup winners medal would be justified in that, but it's not for me.
But I do feel at this stage of my career that even if England asked me to be involved again I would probably say no.
IT'S ALWAYS A NERVY WEEK BEFORE BATH TIMEI GET nervous before every game – but in derby week the nerves tend to kick in pretty early.From the word go in the week, fans and friends will ask about the game ahead when it’s Bath, and that starts the butterflies.Nerves are good though, they keep you on edge – the day I am not nervous before a game is the day I will not be ready to play.Beating Bath means so much to us: we understand that it is pretty much everything to the supporters, and we’re desperate to do them proud.That excitement and anticipation ebbs and flows throughout the week, but by Saturday afternoon it will be pretty intense.Men like Andy Hazell and Jim Hamilton will be rousing the troops, others like myself will be a bit quieter, handling the nerves and just getting set mentally.It’s going to be just as intense as ever: but when we all take the field, we’ll be ready.FEEDBACK FROM FANS IS ALWAYS IMPORTANTWHEN I first started playing for Gloucester I couldn’t believe that fans wanted to hear my opinion on things.I felt a bit of a fraud when I signed my first autograph.As you get older you get more used to all of that – and it honestly makes Gloucester the club it is.I attended a Question and Answer session at Kingsholm on Tuesday night, organised in conjunction with the Wooden Spoon.Freddie Burns, Huia Edmonds and Pete Buxton were kind enough to come along too, and it was great to field questions from the supporters.There are always new faces, but there are a lot of familiar ones – and it’s great to know they truly share in what we’re doing.Wooden Spoon uses rugby events to raise money for disadvantaged and disabled children, and all money raised by the Gloucestershire committee is spent on projects within the county.Representatives from Cirencester charity Riding for the Disabled, the St James City Farm and Stroud’s St Rose’s Special School took a moment to explain how Wooden Spoon Gloucestershire has supported them in the last few years.It was great to get an insight into where the money goes.This was the first in a series of events aimed at boosting membership of Wooden Spoon Gloucestershire.For more information on how to join contact chairman Tim Heal on 01452 627128.TOP TIPIT was never in doubt.Even when we headed off to take on London Welsh on Sunday, I was fully confident Europe were well-placed to retain the Ryder Cup...Well, ok, maybe that’s not strictly true – but what a comeback – and I’m finally off the mark with my tips.But now I’m on a roll, let’s hope I can make it two in two.So this week I’m backing Camelot for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on Sunday.