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Prop Dan Cole delighted by starting place for England


Dan Cole (left) jokes around with Leicester team-mate Toby Flood at England training
Cole (left) has Leicester team-mates like Toby Flood to make him feel at home

England new-boy Dan Cole admits he has to pinch himself after his rapid rise from a loan spell in National One to the Test arena in just over a year.

The Leicester prop was at Nottingham on loan last January but starts Sunday's Six Nations match with Italy after a debut cap against Wales off the bench.

"It's brilliant to start," the 22-year-old told BBC 5 live. "You dream of it as a child when you are playing rugby.

"To play last week and start this week is immense. It's come pretty quickly."

Cole spent the best part of two seasons on loan at Bedford Blues, another club in National League One - the level below the Guinness Premiership - from 2006 to 2008.

I am here with people like Martin Johnson and Jonny Wilkinson - World Cup winners. It's immense

Dan Cole

And while he made 20 appearances for the Tigers last season, he also had further loan spells at the Cornish Pirates and Nottingham.

"It is definitely a big turnaround," he admitted. "I got sent to Nottingham because the guys [at Leicester] were fit and to adjust my game.

"I came back and played for Leicester and did alright. I played this year and ended up here so I'm not complaining.

"I have had to pinch myself. Playing for Leicester and to establish myself there was one of my aims at the beginning of the year.

"Now I am here in these surroundings at Pennyhill Park [England's training base] and with people like Martin Johnson and Jonny Wilkinson - World Cup winners. It's immense.

"But there are several boys here to give you enough banter to keep your feet on the ground."

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Cole, who has alternated the Leicester number three jersey with experienced Italian Martin Castrogiovanni this season, will face his club colleague in Rome on Sunday.

"It's a good relationship," Cole added. "It will be quite interesting to play against him this weekend. But I am far too focused on my own game to provoke Castro into anything!"

The other change to the England side from the win over Wales sees the fit-again Riki Flutey return as expected at inside centre.

Flutey was a catalyst for England's backline towards the end of last year's Six Nations and a member of the victorious Lions side that won the third Test in South Africa last summer.

But a shoulder injury kept him out of the autumn series and a thigh knock in training last week forced him out of the Wales game.

"Sitting in the stands is pretty frustrating," the New Zealand-born centre, who turned 30 on Wednesday, told BBC Sport. "I am looking forward to this Italy game loads, I can't wait.

The coaches have been drumming in 'freedom within structure'. If someone sees an opportunity on the field they can take it

Riki Flutey

"The whole time I have been in this camp there has been a huge emphasis on togetherness, guys being open with each other, honest with each other, giving each other loads of positive feedback and criticism. That has created a fantastic environment.

"The new guys feel really comfortable here and they can speak to the older players or the coaches."

Flutey's strong communication from inside centre and willingness to call moves should help relieve the decision-making responsibility on Jonny Wilkinson at fly-half.

"That's how I go about playing the game," he added. "The more communication I give to my nine and 10 the easier it is for them.

"I enjoy playing with a bit of freedom. I understand the structure that we are trying to put out onto the field. I know what I can do within that structure and that's been huge coming in to the Six Nations.

"The coaches have been drumming in 'freedom within structure'. If someone sees an opportunity on the field they can take it, and we are seeing players playing like they do for their clubs."



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see also
England pick Cole & recall Flutey
10 Feb 10 |  English
Johnson praises England execution
06 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
England 30-17 Wales
06 Feb 10 |  Rugby Union
England suffer Flutey injury blow
05 Feb 10 |  English
Johnson labels squad his 'best'
27 Jan 10 |  English


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