Rugby Union

Could Christian Wade be England's star turn this autumn?

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Like any professional athlete who is passionate about their chosen discipline yet is prevented from competing regularly due to injury, Wasps wing Christian Wade must have felt more than his fair share of frustration during the last nine months.

Looking to capitalise on a 2012/13 campaign that saw him finish level-pegging with Tom Varndell as the Premiership's leading try scorer and earn a place on England's tour to Argentina - and subsequently the Lions visit to Australia - the 23-year-old had his considerable momentum cruelly curtailed by virtue of foot ligament damage sustained during a 19-12 win over London Irish last November.

As well as ruling him out of any further involvement in Wasps' bid for European qualification, such an issue also denied Wade a place in Stuart Lancaster's squad for the trip to New Zealand earlier this summer.

Pleasing return

Thankfully, that injury nightmare now finally appears to be at an end. With little more than a brief pre-season run-out against minnows Esher behind him, Wade burst back onto the domestic scene with two scores in Wasps' hugely eventful and wonderfully entertaining 34-28 loss to Saracens at Twickenham last weekend.

Each try - both of which came in a thrilling second half that saw Wasps fightback from an ominous 11-point deficit only to lose the encounter at the death  - was a fine demonstration of Wade's main strengths; namely his brilliant anticipation and formidable speed.

England ambitions

With his club career now back on the road to recovery, the next step for Wade surely now has to be to prove his form under Dai Young in order to reclaim a role in England's squad for an autumn series that sees them once again come face-to-face with the mighty All-Blacks in addition to challenging tests against South Africa, Samoa and old foes Australia.

Lancaster's sensible and reasonable decision to delay the announcement of his final squad for those aforementioned matches will surely give Wade hope that he can force his way back into the reckoning, although the player himself admits that right now he can only focus on ensuring that he remains a regular starter at Adams Park.

If he does that, then everything else should fall perfectly into place.

"My main aim is on Wasps," he told GiveMeSport.

Strong competition

"My main goal is to obviously get my place back. I know I've played the first game of the season, but that's not a guarantee that I'll get starts throughout the year and obviously we have some new guys who have come in, some new wingers but there's a lot of games, a lot of competitions so I've got to get in the starting lineups.

"For me it's just about trying to nail that down and get in some good performances and hopefully I can be rewarded with some international honours as well. But even on that front there's a lot of young English talent coming through, a lot of good players so it's gonna be tough on all fronts. I've got to focus on Wasps and the rest will take care of itself."

While his sensible and mature approach to the game after such a long layoff is admirable, Wade is understandably still eager to build on his solitary England cap.

"Obviously, playing for your country is a massive honour. Even just being in the camp is massive and tough, so with the one cap I've got I obviously want to build on that," he added.

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Fierce competition

Despite his ambition, Wade knows only too well that the level of competition in his position at present is particularly fierce.

The wings are an area that Lancaster is certainly not short of options, and the likes of new Harlequins recruit Marland Yarde, Bath's Anthony Watson, Jonny May of Gloucester and Saracens' Chris Ashton - all four of whom did go to New Zealand - likely to provide the sternest competition along with the likes of versatile Exeter back Jack Nowell and possibly even David Strettle, the experienced Saracens speedster who has previous international experience and whose hat-trick propelled Mark McCall's side to a nail-biting win on Saturday.

"I just try and concentrate on myself, my team and my teammates," Wade continued.

"Obviously there's a lot of players playing well on the wing, you've got Marland Yarde, Jack Nowell, Jonny May, they're obviously the players that have been in and around the England team for the last couple of years, so they're obviously gonna be the ones looked at by the coaches.

"They're looking good so it's harder for players like me but obviously competition is good, so that we can get the best for England going forward to the World Cup."

England's potential X-factor

Ultimately, Wade's chances of securing a spot in Lancaster's squad for a crucial autumn depend almost entirely on his upcoming performances -from both an attacking and defensive perspective - for Wasps and his ability to steer clear of any further injury woe.

If he can do that, then he might just be England's x-factor heading into a busy 2015 that is likely to define the current head coach's tenure.

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England Rugby
Aviva Premiership
London Wasps
Christian Wade
Rugby Union

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