Planet Rugby

Wigglesworth wants more

17th September 2009 12:07


Richard Wigglesworth scores Paris

Richard Wigglesworth: Desperate for more nights like Paris

Fifteen minutes of fame is a well-worn phrase, but one that Richard Wigglesworth is desperate will not become associated with his career.

February 23 was the diary date that the now 26-year-old announced himself on the international scene by claiming the winning try against France in Six Nations 2008.

A successful dart for the line sparked mass celebrations at Stade de France that would have led to many predicting that a host more England episodes would follow as then coach Brian Ashton hailed Wigglesworth's strong display.

But such memorable nights are yet to re-emerge for the scrum-half born and raised close to Blackpool, with the following season's club rugby limited to a bit-part storyline alongside Wales international Dwayne Peel.

Wigglesworth himself admitted that 2008/09 was unsatisfactory in the way it all panned out. Yet with the new term comes the aforementioned Peel's injury, which allows an ultra-hungry player a large chance to impress during his extended spell in the jersey.

"I was obviously quite disappointed not to get another cap last year which was an aim of mine," he said, speaking exclusively to Planet Rugby.

"Both [club and personal] seasons aligned with one another really. I underachieved and so did Sale in finishing fifth again as we felt we had a better squad than that. The campaign was unfortunate on both fronts."

It seemed there was something of a rotation policy in the scrum-half slot at Edgeley Park last season, with then coach Philippe Saint-André having to juggle an international in one hand and an international British & Irish Lion in his other.

"I think that probably frustrated us both. At times myself and Dwayne were both playing well and it was just the way it went," revealed Wigglesworth.

"Obviously there were two internationals playing in the same position and that was just how it was. We both found it hard at times when the big games came around - one of us got the shirt one time and the other day it was the other guy.

"It took one of us to put a run of games together to impress the people who you want to impress. But I think that will change this year as we should each get a run of games and hopefully we'll both find our best form by doing that."

A measured response from the player whose parents recently converted their long-time dairy farm into a nine-hole golf course - a dream scenario for many.

It is also very much a different vision at the Sharks this season after news continued to filter through that key men were signing deals in the Top 14, including their Director of Rugby.

Names such as captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, Scotland full-back Rory Lamont and forwards Sébastien Chabal and Sébastien Bruno had certainly handed the pessimists all of the ammunition they needed to doubt the club's chances, something that hadn't fazed 'Wiggy' when asked whether he was at all concerned about the club's chances.

"No, not as much as everyone else was," was his response.

"The French boys leaving was inevitable with Philippe going and with them wanting to get back home. And to be fair a lot of the time we didn't have those guys playing for us [due to international call-ups] so we possibly weren't getting the most out of them.

"The new boys we have got in are headed by our big Fijian from Toulon [Sisaro Koyamaibole], who was unfortunately injured last week, so hopefully we can get him back as soon as possible. I think we've definitely replaced Chabal at the base."

And so to the strategy set out by the man stepping into the Saint-André's shoes. Kingsley Jones was eased into the top position at the tail end of last year as the latter took a back seat to allow his successor a trial at the reins before 2009/10.

So did Jones set out objectives for both England and European efforts this time around?

"For the first time in a long time we've not set team goals," was Wigglesworth's fresh retort as he assessed both their Guinness Premiership and Heineken Cup chances.

"We've been guilty in the past of looking to far into the future so it's the old 'one game at a time' in that we massively concentrate on being hungry for every match each week.

"If you're only two per cent off, then you end up losing because it's going to be that close this year, as we saw in the first weekend when the top four [of last year] all lost.

"Ah yes...We do seem to draw the nice easy groups [having been pitted against such big names as Munster and Clermont in their European Pool of 2008/09].

"But while you know you're in the 'Group of Death', you're also very excited because you're in the Pool where there are no dead rubbers. Even towards the end, the quality of rugby being played will be of a very high standard."

Without doubt Sale's strongest showing of last year came at Parc des Sports Marcel-Michelin and Wigglesworth admits he still has fond memories of that memorable win.

What many forget is that the former Kirkham Grammar Schoolboy played most of that bonus-point victory from fly-half - outside of Peel who was at number nine - but it was a performance that Wigglesworth ranks right up there with his first England start.

"At the time people said that Clermont were the team to beat so to go there and win with a bonus was great," he explained, before hinting of a possible return to pivot once again.

"Charlie [Hodgson] is our first-choice fly-half and quite rightly so because he is a class player, but the coaches have told me that when Dwayne's fit it might be a possibility.

"I would be more than happy to step in and it's great to have another string to your bow. I am also working on my goal-kicking so I'm better prepared to fill in at ten. However, I don't want to start there ahead of Charlie when there is a chance to play at nine.

Extra strings to his bow is a very smart idea right now and something that Wigglesworth realises he must possess against the likes of Harry Ellis, Paul Hodgson and Danny Care.

But with international kicking guru Jon Callard set to visit on what he hopes will be a weekly basis, he can be encouraged by England's continued interest in his tools.

"The competition is so tough now especially at nine where there is obviously the three that are in the main squad plus a lot of talent coming through, so you need lots of skills that will hopefully catch the eye as much as possible," he explained.

It is abundantly clear that Wigglesworth wants to experience playing international rugby once again having not featured in the 22 on the recent two-Test series against Argentina.

And who can blame the man on the back of his early-career success, which has obviously planted a seed in the soon-to-be father's head.

"I don't think I'll ever forget that night [against France] as it was one of the best games of my life," he reminisced.

"It's also one of the reasons why I desperately want to play for England again because you can't beat that feeling of winning for your country. Hopefully if I can keep playing well and impress then I might get another night like that.

"You only have to look at someone like Mark Cueto having played his way back after being sidelined for a year due to injuries and whatnot.

"Rugby's full of stories like that. A year is a long time in the game. It can go either way but it's up to me to make sure it goes in the right one."

By Adam Kyriacou

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