'He's a 36-year-old and the world's best footballer': England Rugby using footballer Cristiano Ronaldo for inspiration
Cristiano Ronaldo has been held up as the inspiration for England’s new generation as Eddie Jones outlines the possible futures available to his young prospects.
Twenty-one uncapped players have been selected in a provisional squad that has begun preparations for a summer series consisting of a second string fixture against Scotland ‘A’ on June 27 and July Tests against the United States and Canada.
Many will be jettisoned when the 34-strong group is revised with additions from Saracens and Gallagher Premiership semi-finalists Bristol, Exeter, Sale and Harlequins, but in the meantime Jones has told them to seize their opportunity.
And to illustrate his point he singled out Ronaldo, the Portuguese great who was raised in poverty and has gone on to become one of football’s finest players – and is now the highest goalscorer in European Championship history after netting twice against Hungary on Tuesday.
England forwards coach Matt Proudfoot said: “It’s about having a conversation and a relationship with a player, mapping out the best he can be.
“Eddie used the great example of Ronaldo, where he is and where he came from. He’s a 36-year-old and the world’s best footballer.
“Look at where he’s come from – it doesn’t matter where you’ve come from, it’s what you put in every day to be the best you can be.
“Our message to the young players is to grow and to be as good as they can be and use this opportunity.”
One player Jones and Proudfoot will not be working with is Alfie Barbeary, the versatile Wasps forward who was set to make his Test debut this summer only to suffer a fractured cheek and eye socket in training.
Barbeary has been limited to just two appearances this year because of a run of injuries culminating in this latest setback, bringing a halt to the tackle-busting progress made last year.
“Alfie is a phenomenal player, absolutely phenomenal player and I’d just love to get to work with him,” Proudfoot said.
“It’s just indicative of how tough he plays that he picks up these niggles. That’s how opportunity is created for other players, but I feel for Alfie. He just wants to get a run of games.
“When you watch him play, he plays with a freedom and enthusiasm, being such a young man. So I just feel for him.”
England have provided four front rows to the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa and Proudfoot, the Springboks’ 2019 World Cup-winning forward coach, believes they will be hugely influential in the Tests.
“It’s going to be some series. The front row is where the series is going to be won and lost,” he said.
“If you look at the Springboks and how they’ve picked their team, they’ve obviously picked a heavier front row. The physical confrontation up front is going to be immense.
“I hope to be back in South Africa when those games are being played so I’d love to see what that vibe is like and just experience it.”
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