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Thompson targets World Cup spot


Thompson glad to be back

England hooker Steve Thompson has set his sights on representing his country at the 2011 World Cup following his recall to the side to face Australia.

The 31-year-old, who briefly retired in 2007 due to a neck injury, will start his first Test since 2006 on Saturday.

"For me, it's all about the future," Thompson told BBC Sport. "I've got to cement my place, because I really want to go to another World Cup.

"I really believe I've got that in me. I feel really rejuvenated."

Thompson's recall to the England side completes a remarkable international comeback for the former Northampton player after he was forced to quit the game in April 2007 because of a serious neck injury.

"He (Johnson) could be one of the lads, but when he said something you listened, and he's taken that into what he does now

Steve Thompson

However, having sought a second opinion he subsequently paid back a £500,000 insurance cheque before returning to action with French side Brive later that year.

Whilst his recall to the starting line-up for Saturday's match owes somewhat to the loss of 11 of England coach Martin Johnson's 32-man squad to injury, Thompson is determined to make the most of his chance.

"It was always the intention to play for England again, otherwise there was no point in coming back but the way it's happened in the last couple of weeks has taken me by surprise," he admitted.

"I knew about the injuries, and then all of a sudden I'm starting. I'm nervous - it's like winning your first cap again - but I know what to expect from the whole day.

"You never know how precious something is until you lose it, and now I've got a chance to get it back again."

Thompson, who earned his 48th England cap when he came on as a last-minute replacement in the win over Argentina at Old Trafford in the summer, says he is benefiting from being much fitter now than prior to his injury.

At his heaviest he weighed 138kg but is now down to 115kg, giving him more versatility and speed in line with the requirements of the modern game.

"I look at what (England lock) Simon Shaw said about gym monkeys, and I think he's right," explained Thompson.


"When I was playing before, at times I got too big, and I lost my agility.

"You don't need that complete bulk - you need the agility and speed as well and I've become more explosive, as you need to be in modern rugby.

"Hopefully with the gameplan we've got here I can show that I still have the ability to play with ball in hand, and also do what I need to do in defence."

Much like international team-mate Jonny Wilkinson, who himself returns to the England side for the game against Australia, Thompson has found a new lease of since moving to France.

"I wouldn't be sitting here today if I hadn't gone to France," he admits. "It's a whole new way of playing rugby for me.

"Brive backed me and took me in when I was at a crossroads. I've been through hard times but they stuck with me."

Having being part of the England side captained to World Cup glory by Johnson, Thompson is relishing the chance to play under the now coach.

"He had our complete respect as a player," Thompson explained. "I was always under him in the pecking order; he said jump, I said how high.

"He could be one of the lads, but when he said something you listened, and he's taken that into what he does now.

"He's got that balance between having a laugh, and then when he looks at you with a frown you know you've done something wrong and you shouldn't do it again."

England team to face Australia: U Monye (Harlequins); M Cueto (Sale Sharks), D Hipkiss (Leicester), S Geraghty (Northampton), M Banahan (Bath); J Wilkinson (Toulon), D Care (Harlequins); T Payne (Wasps), S Thompson (Brive), D Wilson (Bath), L Deacon (Leicester), S Borthwick (Saracens, capt), T Croft (Leicester), L Moody (Leicester), J Crane (Leicester).

Replacements: D Hartley (Northampton), D Bell (Bath), C Lawes (Northampton), J Haskell (Stade Francais), P Hodgson (London Irish), A Goode (Brive), A Erinle (Biarritz).

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see also
England pick Wilkinson & Thompson
04 Nov 09 |  Rugby Union
England 14-28 Australia
15 Nov 08 |  English
Australia coach wary of Wilkinson
02 Nov 09 |  Rugby Union
Shaw boost for injury-hit England
28 Oct 09 |  Rugby Union
England release trio for weekend
28 Oct 09 |  Rugby Union
Injury-hit England make changes
26 Oct 09 |  Rugby Union
Mortlock to miss tour of Britain
06 Nov 09 |  Rugby Union
Vickery joins England casualties
20 Oct 09 |  English
Argentina 24-22 England
13 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
Thompson set for surprise return
23 Oct 07 |  Rugby Union
Injury forces Thompson to retire
15 Apr 07 |  English

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