Monday, 29 September 2014

Chris Pennell has smashed through England's Championship 'glass ceiling', says Sam Smith

Sam Smith says Worcester team-mate Chris Pennell has shattered the ‘glass ceiling’ that blocked Championship players from being selected for England.

And now the winger believes his England ambitions will be helped rather than hindered by playing in the Championship for Worcester.

Smith, 24, left Harlequins for Sixways in order to get more starts, and says Pennell’s debut for England in the summer proves that Championship players can dream big.

Sam Smith takes the fight to Worcester last season.

“Chris has pushed through that ceiling and I think that’s good for the game,” he tells me. “It means there’s going to be a lot more competition in this league.

“There are a lot of young talented English players in the Championship and Chris’s success is only going to be a good thing for the game.”

Smith believes Sixways is the place that will enable him to hone his skills and follow in the footsteps of dad Simon, who won nine caps for England in the 1980s.

“Every English player wants to play for England one day. I played with lots of internationals at Quins and have seen how good they are and I’ve got a way to go to improve, but that’s something I can achieve playing for Worcester.”

* A version of this article originally appeared in The Rugby Paper

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Stuart Hooper looks to his legacy at Bath Rugby

Bath skipper Stuart Hooper tells me that lifting silverware this season will mean little if he doesn’t eventually leave an enduring legacy of leadership at the club.

The lock forward, who is captaining Bath for a fourth successive season, turns 33 in November and admits to thinking about the kind of place he wants The Rec to be once he decides to hang up his boots.

“If I’ve left nothing behind it’s pointless,” says Hooper, who signed a one-year contract extension last season. “When I’ve gone, what’s left afterwards will be the true measure as to what I’ve done as captain.

“I want to leave players who are the next leaders.

“Four consecutive years is a huge honour and I’m hugely chuffed, but for me it’s about how good we can get this squad.

“A massive role for me is developing the leaders for now and for the future."