CHARLIE Sharples reckons his latest England snub is the perfect motivation to keep his World Cup dream alive.
The Gloucester wing has not pulled on the Red Rose in 14 months and was left out of all of England’s international squads last week despite a glut of wing injuries.
Sharples admits he was disappointed to be overlooked but believes Stuart Lancaster made the right decision and is confident he can return to the Test fold ahead of the World Cup.
He said: “I was disappointed but it’s a reflection of where we are. I wasn’t expecting it and don’t think I have done enough to warrant a call-up.
“There’s a lot of guys playing well and I don’t want to be in there on reputation but because I am performing week in week out.
“I’ve been in the mix for a couple of years and you probably take it for granted when you’re there – it takes something like this to realise how fortunate you are and renews that hunger and desire.
“I have to take the positives, a kick up the backside to improve my own game. I have the belief I can be back in the mix before the World Cup and will give it my best shot.”
Sharples has been hampered by injuries this season but also believes he has been hampered by the poor form of the Cherry and Whites.
With the Gloucester under-powered pack failing to fire, opportunities out wide have been few and far between. The 24-year-old has touched down six times in 15 games this season, but that includes a hat-trick in the autumn friendly with Japan.
But while Sharples admits it has, at times, been frustrating he insists his sole focus is on putting the Cherry and Whites back on track rather than looking to international honours.
He said: “As a wing that can be dictated by the form of your team but that’s not to say I can’t do better as an individual.
“It takes more than one good game to be selected for England. The players picked have been performing and are generally in teams in the top six.
“I’m not down and out or beaten but I can just focus on performing for Gloucester. England’s not even at the forefront of my mind. I’m a club man and it’s all about Gloucester and getting them back to where they need to be.
“I’ve found in the past that if you’re playing well and your club is going well you will get recognition. I’m still good enough to be in the mix but Gloucester comes first.”
Sharples gave Lancaster a reminder of what he is missing out on as he superbly finished a team try in the 20-7 Heineken Cup defeat to Munster on Saturday.
Shane Monahan caused havoc after taking the ball on the switch and Elliott Stooke took the ball into contact. Possession was quickly recycled with Dan Robson sniping from the base of the ruck and firing a miss-pass to Matt Kvesic, who was more like a centre as he fixed the defence and fed Sharples.
The jet-heeled wing ignored Jonny May on the outside and skipped past Johne Murphy and Ian Keatley to score.
Sharples said: “We had got close a couple of times in the first half and going in at half-time 10-0 down would not have been a fair reflection. We needed a score.
“It was a good team try and obviously nice to bag one myself. They were so worried about Jonny on the outside the hole opened up for me.
“It’s good to have him there keeping the defenders honest. I knew he was there but went into auto-pilot finishing mode but I simply had to score.”
While Gloucester produced a performance full of sheer guts and determination, to salvage some pride following the Saracens horror show, ultimately they came up short once again as Munster became the seventh side to conquer Castle Grim.
They were out-smarted and muscled at the breakdown and a lack of cutting edge in the backs proved costly.
But Sharples believes the Cherry and Whites put the essential basics in place and can fine tune the rest as they move forward.
He said: “We were embarrassed and there were no excuses for a real lack of intensity and work-rate against Saracens. These are the things we pride ourselves and from one to 23 we wanted to turn it around.
“We were ashamed and embarrassed of the performance; we let the shirt and the fans down and didn’t want it to happen again.
“We just wanted to go out and show the intensity and passion the fans deserve. It means a lot to play for this club, there’s a lot of heritage and history here and when you pull that shirt on you’re representing more than just yourself. The people that put their hands in their pockets for season tickets expect more.
“The result didn’t go our way but we can be proud of the effort shown. It has to be the benchmark and the little things like taking opportunities and managing our game can be improved in the week.
“It’s building blocks and we need to keep improving. There have been a few times this season where we have performed and thought it was a turning point but last week was a real wake up call. The intensity and work-rate we brought against Munster has to be the benchmark for every week now.
“If we show the same and bring more accuracy we can play some good rugby and maybe push into the middle of the Premiership table and even the top six.”