The World Cup has ensured Harlequins’ rising star Jack Clifford a run in the team as the England players stagger their return to the side but the back row forward insists he is ready to make a name for himself in Aviva Premiership Rugby this season.
Clifford captained England to the Junior World Championship title in 2013 alongside the likes of Anthony Watson, Henry Slade and Jack Nowell and he is looking to make a similar impact in Aviva Premiership Rugby during the 2015/16 campaign.
Last season head coach Conor O’Shea stated he thought Clifford would go on to become “a very special player” and where better to learn your trade on a daily basis than alongside England captain Chris Robshaw and stalwart Nick Easter, who this year appeared in his third World Cup.
The 22-year-old’s versatility – he featured all across the back row last season – means he has featured in the same XV as Robshaw and Easter.
But in the build-up to Sunday’s match at Leicester Tigers, Clifford was asked if he was ready to challenge the likes of Robshaw for a regular spot in the starting line-up.
He replied: “I hope I can but that is down to the coaches. It is up to them to decide if I am ready. It is their decision.
“I am going to give my best in training and in games so it is up to the coaches to then decide.
“I’m not sure when he (Robshaw) is back but I assume it will be pretty soon and for me, when I get my opportunities I have to play as well as I can.
“I don’t want to hang my hat on having other people not being around; I want to make a name for myself in my own right.”
“I just want to play well at Quins. I have set my mind on trying to nail down a position and play well week in, week out.”
Robshaw was captain of England’s disappointing World Cup campaign and Clifford expects the flanker and his Red Rose colleagues to return with added fire in their bellies.
But he stressed that playing for Harlequins is more than enough motivation in its own right, regardless of the events in the last month.
“Obviously [there is likely to be a reaction to the World Cup from the players] but I wouldn’t expect anything less because their job is to play rugby and they want to do that,” added Clifford.
“They would never fail to put in 100 per cent for Quins. That would be the same regardless of whether they were playing for England or Quins.
“You always know those players will always give 100 per cent.”
O’Shea’s men finished in the play-offs during the 2013/14 campaign but last season underachieved as they came eighth in Aviva Premiership Rugby.
Clifford stated the disappointment last term has not changed the club’s ambition, though as he expects the London-based side to challenge for the title this time around.
He said: “You never enter the competition and not push on to try to win the whole thing but we have to use the cliché of taking it game-by-game.
“You always go in with a winning mentality and that is how we will set out but all we can do is perform every week.”
To see all of the 2015-16 Aviva Premiership Rugby season fixtures, please click here #AvivaPrem