Wiggy - It's in my hands
Sale number nine relishing rise to prominence
Last Updated: 19/02/08 7:39pm
New England scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth says it's up to him to repay coach Brian Ashton's faith and make the number nine jersey his own against France in the RBS Six Nations on Saturday.
Having helped club side Sale to a Guinness Premiership victory against Leeds on Friday, the 24-year-old's week has taken on a whole new shine after Ashton announced that Wigglesworth will make his first international start when England visit the Stade de France.
"If every week was like this I'd be a happy man. It has always been my ultimate goal to play for England. You've got to back yourself and your ability," said Wigglesworth, who replaced Andy Gomarsall at scrum-half for the last 20 minutes of their 23-19 victory against Italy 10 days ago.
"I know it will be a battle to keep hold of the jersey, but it is in my hands to play well."
Wigglesworth has enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence, moving past the like of Gomarsall, Harry Ellis, Shaun Perry and Peter Richards in the pecking order as they have succumbed to either injury or poor form.
Explaining the selection, Ashton said: "I felt we needed some more energy in that position to raise the tempo of our game. Wigglesworth is a good all-round footballer. He's a bright guy. He'll be able to bring in the right players at the right time."
Ashton is also looking for more from England's half-back pairing, and hopes that Wigglesworth's fast hands and sweet left foot will complement Jonny Wilkinson.
Fears that Wigglesworth might be too inexperienced to be making a first Test start against France in Paris may also have been assuaged by Saturday's opponents - the French having thrown in 19-year-old Morgan Parra at scrum-half for only his third cap.
"To be playing Test rugby at 19 is very impressive," Wigglesworth said. "It's a massive challenge but the French are notoriously unpredictable.
"They are very dangerous in the back three. We must make sure we don't kick the ball and let them feed on it. They can play lots of ways. They can be on fire or slow the game down."
Wigglesworth also reckoned that England's priority will be to feed Lesley Vainikolo, the Gloucester winger having yet to show what he is capable of at such a rareified level of the 15-man code.
He said: "If you've got someone that explosive you've got to get him the ball. If he's out there in space we'll be trying to get it to him as a team."
Wigglesworth added that he was also relishing the challenge of fighting for his place in the Sale side against Dwayne Peel next season, when Wales' scrum-half joins the club.
"That will be a battle for next year," he added.
"It has never been handed to me on a plate but that's made me a better person."