The Official Online RBS 6 Nations Store is open. The store has everything you need to get behind your team during the RBS 6 Nations, plus the store is now fully stocked with a much wider range of rugby merchandise.
The 23-year-old also spent some time at Nottingham in January 2009. Four months later he was playing in the Premiership final for Leicester and a year later he was included in England’s RBS 6 Nations squad – feats he says he would never have achieved without sampling life outside English rugby’s top flight.
He said: “There’s no chance I would be an international or player I am without that experience.
“It sounds crazy to say, but experiences in National 1 definitely can relate to the win in Sydney.
“It’s character building when you’re in National 1 and you have to get up at 6am to go play Exeter, Cornish Pirates or any of these difficult places to visit, but at the end of it you’re a better player.
“And the same applies when you go on tour – even with England to the Southern Hemisphere.
“Granted it’s different teams and different skill levels, but the theory is the same behind it – you’re away from home and you have to get a result.
“It was tough when I started, as I was a young guy coming out of the academy system and you have to settle into a new squad and visit places such as Cornish Pirates and Otley.
“It keeps you grounded and these places are very tough places to play and teach you a lot about the pressures in rugby. But you get through them and you’re better for it.
“I wouldn’t have got a shot at the Leicester first team unless I had gone to Bedford where I learnt a huge amount.
“I remember a game when I was at Bedford against Nottingham at Meadow Lane.
“It was a great game; we were winning with about two minutes to go and Nottingham pulled out this 14-man maul from a lineout and it absolutely killed us.
“I had never seen it before, but at least if Australia, New Zealand or whoever pull that out now, I know I can handle it!”