England v Barbarians, Twickenham
Webber sets sights on World Cup berth
ESPN Staff
May 24, 2013
Hooker Rob Webber looks to move the ball in training, England training session, Pennyhill Park, Bagshot, England, February 15, 2012
Bath hooker Rob Webber will lead a youthful side against the Barbarians in their non-Test clash at Twickenham on Sunday © Getty Images

Rob Webber is determined to lay down a Rugby World Cup marker when he leads England out against the Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday.

The Bath hooker has battled back from a string of injuries with a second shoulder operation last summer prompting some "dark days", but the 26-year-old has since returned to form and fitness and has been rewarded with the England captaincy for their annual non-Test clash against the star-studded Barbarians.

With England rivals Dylan Hartley and Tom Youngs on British & Irish Lions duty, Webber is hoping to use this game and the forthcoming tour of Argentina to impress coach Stuart Lancaster and force his way back into his Rugby World Cup plans.

"At the start of the season I was still struggling with my shoulder injury and my goals were more short term, to get fit and playing for Bath," Webber told PA Sport. "I had arrived there injured and it was made worse by having to have the operation done again.

"One of the anchors they put in to secure the tendon broke so it needed to be done again. Because it was the same injury in the same place, it just made everything longer the second time around.

"It was hugely frustrating and there were a few dark days along the way. With any surgery there are risks. I was reassured that if the operation was successful and the rehab was done correctly it would all be fine. I am hoping that is the case.

"When I got back playing at the end of January I was just taking it week by week and do my best for Bath. To be involved on the playing side here with England - let alone to get the captaincy - I am delighted and hugely honoured to get the armband."

Webber, David Paice and the uncapped Rob Buchanan are competing for the England hooker's jersey this summer with games against a South American XV in Montevideo next Sunday set to be followed by two Tests against Argentina.

"A huge part of the next four weeks is for everyone involved to stake a claim going into the autumn internationals and then building for the Rugby World Cup in 2015," Webber said. "That is an aim Stuart wants from the tour, to develop as much experience and find out about guys so he has as much experience to call on before the tournament.

"A big part of it for me is staying injury free. That put a big dent in my challenge but hopefully with the fitness back now and the shoulder fixed up I am hoping to make a bit of a charge. I was certainly rusty when I came back, lacking form and fitness but the more games I got under my belt the better I felt. With the two hookers away, this is a big chance for myself, David Paice and Rob Buchanan."

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