Hape admits end to England career
December 22, 2011
Shontayne Hape helped England win the Six Nations earlier this year © Getty Images
Shontayne Hape admits his England career could be over as new interim head coach Stuart Lancaster plans a Six Nations overhaul.
Hape, 30, will not retire from Test duty but he believes the time is right for Lancaster to blood the next generation of centres - the likes of Owen Farrell and Henry Trinder. Lancaster will name England's 32-man Six Nations squad on January 11, and it could feature up to 17 players who did not appear at the World Cup.
"It is time to start rebuilding for the next World Cup," Hape said. "It is time for the young guys to step up and take charge and get that experience of playing in big games. I got to win the Six Nations, which was a treat, and I think it is time for the young guys to experience that.
"You have to start looking at the new breed coming through. The only way they learn is if you play them. I am a big believer in chucking young players in there to see what they can do. On the way if older guys are selected to help out then so be it. I wouldn't say no if I was selected, but I wouldn't be hanging my hat on it."
Hape reflects on 2011 with mixed emotions. He helped England win their first Six Nations title in eight years and was selected for the Rugby World Cup. But it very soon became clear Hape was out of favour with the England management and he played just one game - the pool match against Georgia in which he scored two tries.
Hape had been desperate to play Eden Park, the stadium where his late grandfather had played cricket, but he was never given the chance. Martin Johnson decided to start with Toby Flood at inside centre for the first time in 20 months for the quarter-final defeat to France.
"The way it turned out was sad, the way we ended up losing," Hape said. "But if that was my last game for England then so be it - I would still be a happy man. Winning the Six Nations was the biggest achievement of my rugby career. I can say I played in a World Cup and I scored two tries.
"I would have loved to play at Eden Park, but I have a lot of memories playing for England."
When Hape came home from New Zealand he wanted to put the experience behind him and refused, along with James Haskell and Delon Armitage, to take part in the player review. None of them trusted the process to remain confidential and Hape felt the best way to give honest feedback should have been face to face, not with anonymous comments. The reports were leaked to The Times.
"We had lots of pressure put on us to take part but it was the best advice I received not to fill out that form," Hape said. With the disappointment of the World Cup and a move away from Bath behind him, Hape has rediscovered his passion for the game under the guidance of Toby Booth and Mike Catt. Hape believes both men are future England coaches.
"Toby and Catty have given me a new lease of life and made me realise I am enjoying playing my rugby again," he said. "I know there is a lot of talk about whether Catty would be prepared to go to England. He is still learning and I don't think he wants to be chucked in at the deep end.
"I think Booth would do a great job as the top man. I guarantee he will coach England. He has great ideas. His philosophy is good."
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