Zach Mercer reveals last time he spoke to England head coach Steve Borthwick as he looks to front up against Springbok-heavy Sharks

Alex Spink
Zach Mercer will be looking to impress against the Sharks on Friday.

Zach Mercer will be looking to impress against the Sharks on Friday.

Zach Mercer has revealed there has been no contact with England head coach Steve Borthwick since his latest international snub ahead of the Six Nations.

The Gloucester number eight was outstanding for Montpellier in his stint in the Top 14 before returning to the Premiership as he looked to push for Test action.

Injury hindered his early-season but since returning to full fitness Mercer has helped his side lift the Premiership Rugby Cup and make the Challenge Cup final.

Six Nations snub

However, he was overlooked for the Six Nations, just as he had been for the World Cup, and has spoken to Planet Rugby about his continued England absence.

Exactly how much contact he has had with Red Rose since boss Borthwick named his Six Nations squad in January will come as a surprise to many rugby fans.

“I have not spoken to Steve since then,” he said. “We had some really good honest – and tough – conversations. I said where I was at and what I thought, obviously he did too. That’s the last time we spoke.

“I know I’m in contention to go on the tour this summer, I also know there are no guarantees in life. I came back and was very vocal and honest about why I was doing it, to fight for the England jersey. Obviously that didn’t happen.

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“I never thought I was guaranteed that jersey. Would I have liked more time and opportunity to try and prove myself? Yes, but that’s what I’ve done since, so we’ll see what happens in the summer.”

Mercer starts for Gloucester on Friday and a major final against a Sharks side boasting World Cup-winning Springboks is the ideal stage on which to impress.

“It’s going to be a really tough battle, a massive game for both clubs,” said the back-row. “I’m expecting them to come out absolutely firing.

“They’ll think we’ll think they won’t travel well. Wrong. I know they’ll be there from the kick-off, trying to smash us and physically batter us. And we’re ready for that.

“We’ve fought some big teams in Europe this year – Clermont, Castres, Treviso – with big packs. So, yeah, we’re ready for this challenge.”

Mercer reckons there is a perception that such a physically heavyweight contest does not suit his game and is primed to change that.

Big old boys

“I made my debut for England in 2018 against South Africa. Big old boys,” he said. “I’ve played against a lot of Saffas in France, played against Eben [Etzebeth] when he was at Toulon.

“I had two years in the Top 14 where it was big blokes coming off the line hard to absolutely smash you. I may not be physical in a way you look at other crash-bang players, but I am used to that side of the game.”

A fortnight ago Gloucester rested Mercer and others senior players for a Premiership trip to Northampton, with this final in mind, and were humiliated 90-0.

They were accused of disrespecting the competition and called all sorts of names. Friday is the chance to answer their critics.

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