Phil Vickery and Trevor Woodman may have been friends since schooldays but there was no room for any of their usual banter at the London Wasps training ground this week, as they mulled over greater success for England.
Vickery struggled on his first appearance of the season last Sunday as London Irish ended Wasps’ unbeaten run - and Woodman is now the man he has to answer to.
The two World Cup-winning props were reunited this summer when Woodman joined Wasps as forwards coach after spending the last four years carving out a burgeoning reputation in Australia.
“We are personal friends but I didn’t have a great game at the weekend so there isn’t time for a lot of humour,” said Vickery, who will captain Wasps against Northampton tomorrow.
“My target is to play better this weekend than I did in the last game. I actually find it more awkward working with Trevor than with Martin Johnson in the England set-up because it is all so new.”
Vickery and Woodman first met as 12-year-olds when Bude locked horns with Liskeard in a Cornish colts derby.
They moved up the ranks together, shared a flat when Woodman joined Vickery at Gloucester and eventually won the World Cup together.
“Bude v Liskeard - that was a hell of a match,” recalled Vickery with a smile.
“We played colts with each other and then he joined Gloucester about six months after I did. We lived together and he has been like a bad smell ever since.”
Woodman moved to Australia with his fiancee in 2005 after a back injury forced him into premature retirement at the age of 28, some four years before a loose-head prop can expect to be at his peak.
While Down Under, Woodman took up an invitation to coach Sydney University, which soon developed into a full-time position and led to a post with the Australian Rugby Union.
At the same time, Vickery recovered from his own career-threatening injury and three back operations to captain England to the 2007 World Cup final and tour with the 2009 Lions.
“It was just a shame for Trevor. Let’s hope he can take his enthusiasm and skill he had as a player into the coaching,” said Vickery.
“Trevor has a fantastic rugby brain. He had a huge amount of skill, he understood things, he was observant and, as he would say, he got an A-level so he must be clever.
“Shaun Edwards asked me about Trevor and I told him I had heard good reports from Australia.
“I spoke to Phil Waugh the previous autumn and he said Trevor was doing really well and the guys liked him.”
Vickery has been planning for his own future by developing his Raging Bull clothing and rugby brand, which this week extended into an online community.
There are no thoughts of retirement just yet and his ambitions include the 2011 World Cup, although first up for England are autumn internationals against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand.
Twelve months ago, England suffered record defeats to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Vickery said: “The Test series this autumn has got to be better than last year. If it is not questions are going to start being asked. The World Cup is less than two years away.
“We have gone through a hell of a lot these last few years, with different coaches and all kinds of things going on. Now we are settled let’s get on with business.”
Injuries have robbed England of Delon Armitage at full-back and Riki Flutey at inside centre and there will be plenty of candidates pushing for selection at Adams Park tomorrow.
The most intriguing will be Danny Cipriani, who has been moved to full-back while Northampton boast their own candidate in Ben Foden plus the in-form Shane Geraghty, who is seen as a potential inside centre for England this autumn.