England in New Zealand 2014
Pennell: Relegation will not hinder England chances
May 16, 2014
Chris Pennell made it onto the Premiership player of the year shortlist despite his season ending in disappointment with Worcester © Getty Images
Worcester's Chris Pennell believes playing in the Championship next season will not harm his chances of appearing for England.
Pennell was the shining light in an otherwise poor season for Worcester as the Warriors were relegated from the Aviva Premiership having won just two matches. The fullback was shortlisted for player of the season and has caught the eye of England head coach Stuart Lancaster, who named him in a preliminary training squad for the summer tour to New Zealand.
And Pennell is confident he can continue to challenge for an England berth despite playing outside the top flight next season. "I don't think my development will be hindered by playing second tier," he told the BBC. "The fact I'm getting an opportunity with us being relegated suggests they're prepared to give me a chance."
The 27-year-old was the only player to play every minute of his club's league games last season and was eventually beaten to the player of the year title by current England fullback Mike Brown.
"It's been a very surreal couple of weeks," he said. "I'm amazingly pleased personally with what's happened and given the season we've had as a club, maybe it's a slight sweetener to what's been a difficult year."
Pennell signed a new contract with the Warriors in December which keeps him at the club until 2017 and is adamant he will not leave the club in search of Premiership rugby.
"The selectors will be aware of the standard of coaching I'm getting - the fact that it's international standard," he said. "Fingers crossed they can see past relegation but I will be playing next season at Worcester for definite."
Lancaster has named Pennell in a training squad ahead of the three-Test series with the All Blacks, drawn from those clubs not involved in Premiership or European play-offs. The fullback knows he has a lot to do to usurp Brown as England's favoured No.15, but he is determined to make the final squad.
"If I'm going to play against the Barbarians [on June 1], it'll mean I won't tour so it depends on where the coaches see me fitting in," he said. "It's mixed emotions, to be honest I'd be happy to take either but I'm certainly going to be driving towards that plane ticket."
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