x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Duckham gives injury-plagued Strettle the thumbs up

David Strettle's chronic foot problem could deprive England of one of their few game-breaking attackers.

The England winger David Strettle.
The England winger David Strettle.

DUBAI // David Strettle's chronic foot problem could deprive England of one of their few game-breaking attackers, according to one of his finest predecessors on the wing, David Duckham. The Harlequins flyer, 25, had a bone graft and a screw inserted into the fifth metatarsal of his left foot during an operation yesterday. It was the third time in 18 months, since he first snapped the bone during training in the build-up to the World Cup in France, that he has required surgery.

The injury is likely to keep him out of action until after England's autumn internationals. He had been left out of the new England team manager Martin Johnson's initial 32-man squad in any case. However, Duckham believes Strettle remains one of the national team's most potent attacking threats. Duckham said: "He is one of those players who has that rare ability to create something out of nothing. That is not easy to do in the modern game.

"He is a guy who likes to take risks, and I like to see that. He is unorthodox, and there is room for that in the modern game. "He has sadly been plagued by injury, I hope that doesn't cause him long term problems, because he looks to be a very gifted player." Strettle is nicknamed "Ducks" due to his likeness in playing style and, more strikingly, appearance to the British and Irish Lions great, Duckham.

Duckham, who touched down 10 tries in 42 Test appearances, says he felt honoured on the comparison. "He used to have long blond hair - that was the principal likeness," Duckham, 62, added. "I don't think we played in the same way, but I felt very flattered when I heard that. "In the 1970s, when I played, everyone wore their hair long. I got picked out because I had long blond hair, and I was the only player with blond hair in the team.

"That seemed to be my trademark - it wasn't my idea, I wasn't trying to make a fashion statement. Maybe the media thought he was, as his hair was unusually long for quite a while. Now he's had it cut, it's not easy to recognise him as the same player, but he is still a very gifted player. "It is such a shame he keeps getting knocks, but that is the price you pay in serious professional sport. It is a much higher risk game in the injury sense than it was in my day."

pradley@thenational.ae