- Dan Cole will win his 50th cap against France on Saturday
- Winning in a "pressure" situation matters to England tighthead
Dan Cole will lead England out to face France for the RBS 6 Nations finale just before 5pm on Saturday, the honour bestowed on those reaching a half century of appearances.
The Leicester Tigers tighthead is second on the all-time list in the most attritional of positions, with only 73-cap Rugby World Cup-winner Phil Vickery ahead on the logbook.
Modest and understated, Cole looked back to the early part of his rugby career for perspective on what he has achieved.
“I’m excited, it means a lot,” said the 27 year-old. “When you’re growing up as a kid you aspire to one game for England so to play 50 is very good.
“You spent your time trying to get into the Leicester Academy, then the Leicester team and all that kind of stuff.
“Then when you get to England you dream of playing a game. Then you’re in a tournament and it all passes by so quickly that you don’t really focus on the future.
“It’s only been this week that you think about it and it’s been made a big deal of.”
Dry humour also punctuates Cole's conversation, so it’s no surprise that he identified “every time there is a scrum engagement” as his fondest memories from 49 games to date for his country.
But turning more serious ahead of a trophy tilt at a sold out Twickenham, the British and Irish Lion picked out two special games from 2012 at the grand old stadium.
“Obviously beating New Zealand, for Twickenham and what that meant it was massive,” he said. “Beating Ireland at Twickenham in the final game of the Six Nations a couple of years ago too.
“Those kinds of games are the big ones, as well as going to a World Cup and representing England there. Hopefully there’s a few more to come.”
Stuart Lancaster’s side is in a four-way battle for a first Championship since 2011, locked on six points with Ireland and Wales but with a points difference of plus 37 giving them the edge over Ireland (plus 33) and Wales (plus 12).
England will know exactly what is required of them in the final round of fixtures too, with Wales taking on Italy in Rome at 12.30pm GMT and Scotland versus Ireland in Edinburgh at 2.30pm.
Cole believes that the young team can prevail in a pressure situation at the weekend it will be a huge confidence boost in the last game before the Rugby World Cup camp in June.
Adding that England will look to build a score in pursuit of an as yet undefined points total, he said: “The title would be massive for the group moving forwards. We’ve been in some pressure games when we perhaps haven’t performed as we wanted to so this is an opportunity.
“Thankfully we play last so we will see what the other results are and we’ll go on to the field with our destiny in our own hands.
“You win the game first. It only takes 10 seconds for someone to go the length [of the field to score] so we can’t chase the game too early. We will look to build a score, take when France give us and then go from there.”
Five memorable Test matches for Cole
Cap number one: England 30 Wales 15, February 2010 – Trotting on to replace David Wilson on the hour-mark of a comfortable victory, Cole was just 22. He would start the remaining four games of the Championship.
Cap number seven: Australia 20 England 21, June 2010 – Despite defeat in the previous Test in Perth, Cole hauled England to two penalty tries. In Sydney he relayed on and off the field with a badly bruised and cut eye injury, but was inspirational once more.
Cap number 28: England 30 Ireland 9, March 2012 – In touch at just 9-6 behind when Nigel Owens blew for half-time, Ireland suffered a second-period slump at set-piece. Cole, Dylan Hartley and Alex Corbisero shunted their scrum backwards rapidly and sealed the game with a penalty try that sent Twickenham into raptures.
Cap number 35: England 38 New Zealand 21, December 2012 – The likes of Manu Tuilagi, Chris Ashton and Owen Farrell took the plaudits on a famous day for English rugby, but the piano pushers were arguably more important than those tinkling the ivories. Outstanding at the breakdown, Cole epitomised the hosts’ intensity up front.
Cap number 46: Wales 16 England 21, Feburary 2015 – Straight back into the starting side for his first international in a calendar year, Cole adapted seamlessly to the travails of the Test arena. A ruck steal complemented more fine scrimmaging opposite Gethin Jenkins and England exorcised the demons of 2013.