The clamour for Chris Ashton's international debut may grow louder by the day, but the Northampton try-machine should not 'run before he can walk' according to England's last cross-codes star Lesley Vainikolo.
Leading Guinness Premiership tryscorer Ashton is pushing Ugo Monye and Mark Cueto – neither of whom have scored an international try since last year’s Six Nations – hard for their places on the England wing.
But Vainikolo knows full well the dangers of being promoted ahead of schedule after making his England debut against Wales in 2008 when he too topped the domestic try-scoring charts.
The 30-year-old, who scored an astonishing 149 tries in 152 appearances for the Bradford Bulls, admits he pushed himself too hard when he got his chance on the big stage and has warned former Wigan youngster Ashton not to make the same mistake.
“Chris Ashton is looking very good at the moment and playing some great rugby so my main advice to him would be to keep going,” said Vainikolo, who has not featured for England since Martin Johnson took the reins from Brian Ashton.
“It can be easy to rush into things and try and run before you can walk so he needs to make sure he takes his time and make sure he does the simple things.
“You have to do the hard yards if you want to get anywhere in this game.
“I think I probably rushed things when I first came to union and put a lot of pressure on myself to get as far as I could as quick as I could.
“When I got called-up to the England squad I was going through a particularly bad time because I had just lost my brother and father in a short space of time.
“I was putting so much pressure on myself to do well for them and make an instant impact that I think it really hindered my progress.
“You just can’t afford not to be doing the right things at that level and now I feel I’m a much better player for having realised these things.”
With four tries since the turn of the year, Vainikolo is regaining the sort of form that saw him burst onto the scene with the Cherry and Whites when he crossed five times on his union debut against Leeds in 2007.
It is not just the Tongan born winger who has enjoyed an upturn in fortunes with previously under-fire Bryan Redpath guiding Gloucester to six wins in their last seven games.
And Vainikolo – who has been clocked running the 100m in 10.6seconds – revealed the early-season critics have fuelled their revival.
He added: “No one here liked being in the situation we were in and it’s brilliant that we’ve started to prove a few people wrong.
“It’s a huge motivation to prove the doubters wrong and show that we are a really good team who can compete with everyone.
“All the boys are loving playing rugby at the moment and I’m no different – we’re full of confidence and hopefully we can continue the form we’ve been showing.
“It’s all down to team spirit and working hard for each other. We’ve been through everything with each other and we all look out for each other.”