x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Monye looking to 2011

A text message from Martin Johnson inspired the Harlequins man on the Lions' tour of South Africa. Now he intends to repay his England boss.

Ugo Monye, Premiership side Harlequin's international winger, has revealed an inspirational text message from the England coach Martin Johnson revitalised his British & Irish Lions series. After two try-costing handling errors in the Lions' opening Test against South Africa, Monye - speaking in Abu Dhabi yesterday during a promotional visit for Harlequins' sponsors, Etihad - was dropped for the vital second Test in Pretoria. However, Monye, 26, - under advice from Johnson - knuckled down in training and earned a third Test recall, putting in a game-winning contribution to erase memories of his Durban debacle. Monye finished the 2-1 series defeat as the Lions' leading try-scorer. "Jonno's been great for me," said Moyne. "When I got dropped he sent me a text message saying 'react the way I know you can' - that was great.

"As a player, getting the affirmation you're good enough to be at this level, you can go out there and impose yourself. "To go on a Lions tour only eight months after making my international debut, and come away with two Tests and being the top try-scorer, I'm a happy man," he added. Monye intends to repay Johnson's faith by spearheading his country's World Cup hopes in 2011 in New Zealand. The last time England travelled to a southern hemisphere World Cup - Australia in 2003 - a well-drilled side, led by Johnson, lifted the Webb Ellis Trophy.

Monye sees no reason why the current crop can't repeat their coach's historic triumph. "It's every boy's dream to play in a World Cup. I am part of what I believe is a very exciting England team at the moment, and two years time is not that long away. "We're building up nicely for it and to go down to New Zealand and hopefully do a job would be amazing. We'll go there with confidence regardless of what country we are in, or who we are playing," Monye said. According to the No 11, the squad's budding confidence is down to Johnson, who - after a testing initial spell in charge - is supervising a complete overhaul of the team.

"There is no honeymoon period in international rugby... but people don't realise the enormity of the task. He's come into a brand new set-up, with a new set of players and coaching staff. On top of that, we had a four-week Test tour playing the top three teams. It was tough and we didn't play well but we learnt a lot. "Some of biggest lessons you learn in sport are from defeats," he said, adding: "If I get the chance to play again for England, I'll be looking to repay the coaches."

Monye doesn't think England are too far away from challenging the dominant southern hemisphere teams, and even believes the Lions should have been celebrating a series win. "People speak about the Lions stealing the 1997 series in South Africa, I feel like we've been robbed on this one," he said. "International rugby, especially at the Lions level, is a game won by inches. There were a few critical moments where we could have really got a grasp on the games."

Well-known in these parts after twice playing in the Dubai Rugby Sevens, Monye - making his first trip to Abu Dhabi - says the UAE should consider a bid to host the rugby World Cup in future. "They're keen about the sport here and there are a lot of expats and facilities. There's great weather, it's perfect." @Email:emegson@thenational.ae