Sackey eyes England recall
August 10, 2010
Paul Sackey (left) has teamed up with Tom May (centre) and Jonny Wilkinson (right) at Toulon © Getty Images
Paul Sackey is determined to succeed at new club Toulon and use the Top 14 as the springboard for a return to the England squad ahead of next year's Rugby World Cup.
The 30-year-old winger, who won the last of his 22 Test caps against Ireland in last year's Six Nations, became the latest high-profile Englishman to opt for a switch to the south of France earlier this year - following in the footsteps of the club's marquee signing Jonny Wilkinson. And he has vowed to embrace the challenge of a new environment and propel Toulon to success in the hope of catching the eye of England manager Martin Johnson.
"I feel as good as I have felt in a long time," said Sackey in a break from pre-season training under the Mediterranean sunshine. "Last year was obviously up and down, I broke my leg and then came back and wasn't quite my normal self. After a break like mine, in two places, it is quite hard to come back and be confident. And when I came back I was a bit wary which puts a strain on your form and then I smashed my cheekbone so I was out for another four or five weeks. It was very hard to get back in the swing of things because it was so up and down.
"At the end of the season I started getting back in form but it was a bit too late so I am relishing the challenge of coming here and playing alongside some of the best players in the world, some real superstars. And hopefully my form can get me back in Martin Johnson's plans for the World Cup."
But Sackey, who won two Guinness Premiership titles, the Heineken Cup and the Powergen Cup during his time with Wasps, is not getting ahead of himself and is well aware any international return starts with a strong run of form with his new employers.
"When you start worrying about England that is when you start losing focus on what you need to do and that is play well for your club before you get picked to play for your country," acknowledged Sackey. "So I need to get back to playing well for my club and get myself into a good position to win some silverware. If the club are playing well and I am playing well and he [Johnson] doesn't pick me then he doesn't pick me. There's only so much you can do. I'm sure they'll watch the games and as long as I'm playing well I will be pushing to get back in that side."
The sunshine and warm temperatures have eased Sackey's transition but the language remains a challenge for the speedster who touched down in his side's recent pre-season victory over Racing Metro.
"I've had a couple of French lesson but have missed a few," revealed a apologetic Sackey. "But I want to learn the language and that's one of the reasons I came here. I did it at 'A' level but they speak so quickly so you have to work it out quickly - especially on the field.
"But it's so multicultural here," he added. "You've got Australians, Kiwis and French people who speak English which is very helpful but it is hard on the field. But I came here for a challenge and that is certainly a challenge."
Along with a new language, Sackey is also having to adjust to a new approach to training - one that is a world away from that which he was part of at Wasps for the last five years.
"It is a lot different here," he explained. "I am not saying that in a bad way or saying that it is better it is just different. I am used to training a certain way back at Wasps and have been taken out of my comfort zone here. At Wasps it was very individual, very specific to your position, your age, and the program is for you. I'd been doing it for 10 years so I knew how to best prepare to go out and play rugby whereas here it is across the board. Everyone does the same no matter who you are or what you need. "
Sackey also benefitted from a long-term and productive partnership with sprint coach Margot Wells during his stay at Adams Park and he intends to maintain that relationship whilst calling on the expertise available at his new club in the form of fitness and conditioning coach Steve Walsh.
"We can't continue as we did but I'm on the phone with her and she tells me to do some bits and pieces. But I've been training here with Walshy which has been going well and I feel really good and fit."
Multipower is the Official Sports Nutrition Supplier to RC Toulon. For sports nutrition tailored to your individual goals visit www.multipoweruk.com
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum.