London Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson still feels he can offer something fresh to the England team after returning for pre-season.
Simpson, who is currently preparing with his team-mates to take part in the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Premiership Rugby 7s Series next month, received his only cap for his country during the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand against Georgia.
Now 25, Simpson was left out of the England squad to tour South America earlier this year, with Richard Wigglesworth and Lee Dickson selected ahead of him.
"Stuart [Lancaster] spoke to me before the tour to Argentina. I took onboard what he said but I was bitterly disappointed not to be involved," said Simpson.
"I feel like I have something to offer England that other number nines can't, and that I am an international standard scrum-half.
"I need to put myself in the frame for a shot and Stuart said that Wasps' end-of-season run last year, where we lost eight matches, cost me. It was frustrating to hear, but I can see his point and feel like I still have a lot to give to England.
"I was fortunate enough to be capped a couple of years ago and now if I want to get back in the frame I have to play well and Wasps have to play well as a team."
Last season's dramatic late dip in form has seen Wasps return to pre-season earlier than some of their Aviva Premiership rivals, with Simpson admitting that the current fitness schedule was possibly the toughest he had ever been through.
"It's tough as usual. It might be the toughest one I've had yet and the weather now isn't really helping. We're sweating bucket-loads but it's good to be back out there with the boys," added Simpson.
"I tend to go a bit crazy in the off-season - I like to keep doing things and it is a bit of a change not running around in training or playing games so it is good to be back in, even though it means getting flogged week in and week out.
"I don't know who has been winding the conditioning coaches up but they seem to be taking it out on us! It comes as part and parcel of the job and you learn to turn the part of your brain that feels pain off. That helps slightly, but it's still the least enjoyable thing of the year.
"Our fitness team were all new to the club last season, some were new to the sport, so they have learned as a group what we really needed to work on ahead of the new season. By focusing on us having a bit more running in our legs, we hope that we will be able to win more matches in the final quarter."
Wasps squad depth has been strengthened over the off-season with the recruitment of Andy Goode, Matt Mullan, Kearnan Myall and Ed Jackson, compensating for the loss of Billy Vunipola to Saracens and Stephen Jones to retirement.
Given the changes within the squad, Simpson believes the current crop is the youngest he has been a part of - a factor that will stand Wasps in good stead going forward.
"It's a young squad, probably the youngest I've ever been in, but that's positive for the direction we want to go in. The old boys are sticking their hands up and leading us and it's really competitive. We're going the right way," stated Simpson.
"Last year I had a sore ankle but only missed two games all of last season, so I'm fully fit and have no injury concerns. I'm coming into my prime at 25 and am very happy with where I'm at and about getting another season under my belt."
The season before last saw Wasps battling for their existence at the foot of the Aviva Premiership table, avoiding relegation by just a single league point.
After such a promising step forward in 2012-2013, a top six finish should be the obvious aim for Dai Young's side. Simpson however is insistent that there are no big targets - simply win your next game, starting with a rematch against Harlequins at Twickenham after last season's 40-42 classic.
"If you look at the bigger picture, you take your eyes off the ball. There's no weak team in the Premiership that everyone should be beating. We've proved in the past that we can be turned over and starting with Harlequins, it doesn't get much tougher," commented Simpson.
"Last season we picked up a victory at their place and then we were ahead by 20-25 points in the Double Header at Twickenham before they came flying back. We're eager this year round to avoid such a catastrophic finish as we had in the final 20 minutes last year."
by Ben Coles
London Wasps take part in the J.P Morgan Premiership Rugby 7s at Allianz Park on Saturday 3 August. For tickets and more information visit: www.jpmorgan7s.com or follow @jpmorganrugby7s