“My plan is to get faster and smarter. I want to be a student of the game. It’s a decision-making sport, I want to keep learning so I make better decisions and back it up with my speed. There is no reason why I can’t keep improving, that’s what motivates me.”
I was always nippy as a mini rugby player and was one of the fastest. Going through my teenage years I was a late developer so a lot of boys overtook me as they got bigger and faster.
In my late teens I made a big comeback. I grew tall and got my foot speed back, I worked very hard at it so I started catching people.
Speed is my strength and I probably invest as much time in that as anything because that is what sets me apart."Speed is my strength and I probably invest as much time in that as anything."
That is a huge focus of mine every week, making sure I am warming up well, looking after my body and doing those little things here and there to keep on top of my speed training.
My speed is the thing that will set me apart and what I want to be good at. I want to build a good all round game around that but I will invest most of my time in my speed because I think, especially at international level, you need to have something that is your identity, something you can fall back on and that is your strength. That’s the reason why you are there.
If was to give advice to younger kids I would say do as much as you can, play different sports, learn different skills and within the game as well, play different positions. It’ll make you a better athlete and player. I did everything at school, basketball, athletics, football and pole vault.
Me and a friend liked gymnastics, vaulting and multi-sport events and our head of PE Mr Tim White thought: ‘you guys are brave and quick, you can have a go at the pole vault’.
So, genuinely all we had was a couple of old pole vault sticks and a trough at our school. We didn’t have the money for a bed so we were vaulting into the sandpit. We got quite good, quite quickly.
Before you knew it we were going a bit too high and it was getting dangerous, so then we would go up to Bath twice a week to train. We both went on and competed at county level and I finished seventh in the country in 2003.
My dad has been a huge role model for me because he’s such a hard worker and has a never-quit attitude. Irrelevant of a good day, bad day you just get up and get on with it. I like to think I’ve taken that into rugby. I work hard on and off the pitch. Attention to detail is an attribute of mine.
Your body is the best thing you’ve got in sport so you’ve really got to look after it and respect it. You want to be out there on the pitch playing and training. If you don’t look after your body, it probably will let you down. If you start getting in the habits early, you’ll find it easier later. Invest time in your body because it’s your tool.
I found out about the Michael Johnson Performance Centre when I suffered my knee injury in January 2016. I did some research and thought for the last block of my rehab I’m going to need some specialist coaching and exposure to new things. I came across the centre in Texas and thought I want to do that and found it very useful. It’s a speed, acceleration, power environment which has athletes from a number of different sports. I went back out there before pre-season in the summer just to work on my speed before the season started.
A sense of relief
My first England try was against New Zealand in 2014.
I just remember a big sense of relief. It was my eighth game and I hadn’t scored a try yet. I hadn’t shown what I could do for England and knew I was running out of chances. Looking back it was about confidence and backing myself at international level. I didn’t have the confidence in my early games to try and take someone on, on the outside as I was worried about being tackled into touch or making a mistake. I just thought I’m going to go for it and I’m pleased I did.
I don’t know what happens when I score a try, I love scoring them, it’s awesome for the team and a special moment. I don’t have any control of what I’m doing after I score a try.