Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Centre of Attention; Cup Winner Appleford Stakes His Claim for England

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Centre of Attention; Cup Winner Appleford Stakes His Claim for England

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRIS JONES

CENTRE Geoff Appleford handed London Irish their first Powergen Cup triumph and then paid tribute to the man who has pushed him to the brink of selection for England's summer tour to Argentina.

Appleford, South African born but qualified for England through his grandparents, scored two tries - one a staggering 85-metre interception - to help dismantle Northampton 38-7 at Twickenham to confirm his midfield potential.

England manager Clive Woodward is desperately short of centre options and Appleford has chosen the right moment to bolster his cause, one that has been helped by a series of impressive outings for the England Sevens squad.

If the 24-year-old does get the call to tour, then the first man he will thank is Irish player-coach Brendan Venter, the World Cup winning South African centre, who has transformed Irish this season with the aid of coach Gary Gold.

Appleford said: "It's fantastic to play alongside Brendan because he has got so much experience and has seen it all before. I have learnt so much from him this season. His attitude on the pitch is amazing and if anyone else put their body into the situations he does then they would get hurt but Brendan doesn't. He's incredibly tough and puts his body on the line week in, week out.

"I came to England after meeting Dick Best , who was still coaching London Irish then, when he visited Natal. The Irish were looking for a centre and I had a South African passport but also British grandparents. I arrived last season and didn't have any contact with anyone from the England set-up until the start of the Sevens this season. Joe Lydon (England Sevens manager) was in touch with all the clubs and Irish put my name forward.

"I didn't think about the possibility of an international career when I first arrived because my aim was to get a place in the Irish first team. …

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