x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Guest keen to make England appearance

Touted as national squad's future No 8 a year ago, Tom Guest still dreams of playing for his country.

When the England team managerMartin Johnson called up the little-known Courtney Lawes for his national squad this week, Tom Guest could only wonder what if. As he prepares to deputise for his Harlequins teammate Nick Easter, Guest's name was not in the frame to step up to do the same at international level.

A year ago it was. He was touted as the country's future No 8 and successor to Easter when he impressed for his club and the England Saxons. He is no longer in the Saxons, the national back-up squad, but with Easter out for a month with a calf injury Guest is eager to put himself back on Johnson's radar. "Every player dreams of being in the England setup. I am no different and having had a taste with the Saxons, you do want more," he said.

"But the only way I can do that is being in the side and playing well. That's the only thing I'm thinking about to help me do that. I have to look forward now, not back." Guest, 25, has the belief but his opportunities have been limited with Easter in command of his preferred spot. He has been learning from his teammate, just like he did from Dean Richards. The loss of the Harleqins' influential director of rugby following the fake-blood scandal affected the club on and off the pitch. For Guest, he was deprived of guidance from a No 8 who won 48 caps for England.

"I think I progressed a lot under him. You pick up little things, sometimes without realising it until later. It was a loss for us and me when Dean went," he said. "But I have Nick around to learn from. He has been the England No 8 so there's not many people better to learn from than him. We are rivals for the same place, but we are quite good friends. "I can play anywhere in the back row, but this is my favourite position and the spot I have the attributes for. Of course it's frustrating not to start or play all the time, but now I have the chance, I know I need to make the best impression."

Blessed with pace and power, Guest definitely has the attributes. Being part of the England squad for the Dubai Sevens in 2007 helped enhance his skills, but he puts his speed down to an unlikely source. "I played a lot of sport at school, especially hockey when I was younger, which helped, I was in midfield, all over the place," he said. Harlequins are not lacking in pace, with Ugo Monye and David Strettle, both England wingers, in their ranks.

"I'm pretty good when there's a break on and I'm there to support. But those two are pretty quick," said Guest."We tried to find out who was the fastest when Stretts first came, but he wouldn't have a race. With those guys, we always have a chance to finish off chances." Strettle is back in England's elite squad but has been cleared to face London Irish tomorrow and his attacking threat will be needed against a side second in the Premiership table.

Irish have also won on their last three trips to the Twickenham Stoop, including the Premiership play-off semi-final in May. "Irish have had a very good start and they have been very good the past couple of years so it's no surprise," said Guest. "After last season, we will be looking for revenge. It hurt to lose those games, especially the play-off. It's a derby too and adds something to the occasion.

"But after beating Bath and Worcester, we are looking to get a run going and get up the table. We know we are good enough to be at the top end." The league leaders Saracens visit Bath tomorrow and Leicester host Northampton. Tonight, Sale are looking to end their four-match losing streak against Gloucester. akhan@thenational.ae