Chris Pennell: My England dream remains very much alive
Worcester Warrior Chris Pennell insists that his England dream remains very much alive
He may be plying his trade in the Greene King IPA Championship this season but according to Worcester Warrior Chris Pennell his England dream remains very much alive.
Pennell was one of the success stories of last season in the Aviva Premiership, enjoying a memorable campaign despite Worcester’s relegation, before also winning his first international cap for England in New Zealand in the summer.
Many predicted Pennell would move away from Sixways in the summer to keep his World Cup dream alive but the 27-year-old has remained loyal to the Warriors, insisting he has unfinished business with Worcester this season.
The Championship is certain to be a fiercely contested division once again, with the likes of Worcester and big-spending Bristol set to battle it out for promotion back to the Premiership.
And Pennell is convinced he has made the right decision to stay at Worcester this season and is targeting another series of big performances to ensure England boss Stuart Lancaster continues to take notice.
“After tasting some international rugby in the summer; I’ve come back even hungrier than I was previously to get back to that level again,” he said.
“The strength of this division is such that I don’t think it’s going to make any difference in catching Stuart Lancaster’s eye. Ultimately it rests on me to keep performing but there are so many strong teams and players at this level that I will be tested.
“The top-end of the Championship is a very good standard and I know I just need to keep putting in the performances so those guys with England keep having a look at me.
“I don’t think things are going to dramatically change for me with my approach to games. I think it’s just important as a team we continue to move in the right direction.
“We started to make real improvements in our game from probably February onwards last season and that momentum has certainly continued and has been carried with us throughout the summer.
“I know ultimately if we’re doing things right as a team it is going to benefit individuals and I want to be one of those guys.”
Being part of England’s Test team in New Zealand is a memory Pennell won’t forget in a hurry – training and playing alongside the country’s best players was an experience he wants to repeat again and again.
With England playing four Tests in the autumn, followed quickly by the Six Nations and then a home World Cup – Pennell admits now is the time to ensure his performances remain consistent.
“I’m not going to lie; it was pretty awesome being out in New Zealand with England,” he added. “It was a great thing to be part of and I feel incredibly honoured to have been involved in the tour.
“With that comes responsibility to make sure I do something with the opportunity; there were several other guys who could have been in my position.
“I know I need to justify that selection, I need to keep performing and growing as a player.
In this game you tend to get your opportunities in peculiar ways; it could be injuries or it could be Test players missing as they were at the Premiership Final.
“It was strange scheduling, I got my opportunity and hopefully I didn’t give too bad an account of myself and now I need to keep working very hard so many chances come my way.
“The strength of the Championship gets better every year and it’s attracting real quality players so I will still be testing myself against some of the best players in the world.
“It’s still possible for me to play for England and also play in the Championship.”
Formed in 2009, the Greene King IPA Championship is the second tier of professional rugby union in England. To keep up-to-date with all the latest news follow @ChampRugby on Twitter, or visit www.rfu.com/championship