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All in a day’s work for record-breaking Leonard

A Gallagher Premiership Rugby ball

On current form, it could be a long time before he cracks open the champagne, as the NEC Harlequins prop shows no sign of letting go of his England shirt.

Barking-born Leonard will equal Philippe Sella's record of 111 international appearances in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final this weekend, but the prop has vowed to approach the game – his 13th against Wales – in his normal no nonsense manner.

Leonard makes the starting line-up after Trevor Woodman – regarded as England's first-choice loosehead – picked up an injury in training, but 35-year-old Leonard could have possibly won his place on merit after impressing against Samoa and Uruguay.

If he continues to defy the ageing process – and England keep on winning – he could set a new record against Ireland or France in the semi-final.

Cap number 113 could come in the biggest game of all; the World Cup Final in Sydney on November 22. As the sole survivor from the England team beaten by Australia in the 1991 Final, that would be the perfect way to bow out.

"I am proud about it but most of all because I'm representing England," said Leonard.

"Sunday, though, is really all about getting into the next round. It's not about me or about caps, records and accolades – it never has been, although in the last couple of months the records and awards seem to be coming like London buses, three or four at a time.

"When I stop I'll be able to look back on it all with a great deal of pleasure, but until that day comes I'll be focusing on the job in hand."

With so much history behind him, Leonard is uniquely placed to assess opposition whose performance against New Zealand last weekend brought the tournament to life.

Scoring four tries against the All Blacks with a confident and expansive approach shows just how far Wales have come since a second-string England side beat them 43-9 in Cardiff just over two months ago.

"I think they have improved without doubt over the last couple of months," said Leonard.

"In the early part of the World Cup they've showed their intentions and they're playing some great rugby. To run the All Blacks that close they must be doing something right.

"It just shows you can never underestimate an England v Wales game, whether it's in Twickenham, Cardiff or Brisbane."

Leonard is playing in Brisbane because he refused to go quietly. "He's performed really well in the last couple of games and he's fought his way into the side," said coach Andy Robinson.

"Trevor Woodman's had a slight injury, but it's more down to what Jason's done."

And while Leonard side-steps most of the bouquets thrown his way, he couldn't dodge this tribute from England boss Clive Woodward.

"To equal the world record is a tremendous achievement," he said.

"He's a fantastic guy to be with and coach on and off the field. We're very lucky to have him.

"There was no sentiment involved and his selection was absolutely on merit. He deserves every single one of his caps and a big 'well done' from us."


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