June International Tours

The fall and rise of Andy Gomarsall

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NEC Harlequins scrum-have Andy Gomarsall could make a remarkable return to England colours next week – a year after his rugby career looked destined for the scrapheap.

Gomarsall has already recorded one major triumph over adversity this season, so a demanding two-Test tour of South Africa should not cause any sleepless nights.

The 32-year-old faced a gloomy future after his stint with Guinness Premiership club Worcester came to a shuddering halt last May.

Gomarsall, despite still being under contract at Sixways, claims he was told to go by the Warriors after failing to meet their playing requirements.

It all left him contemplating the next stop on his 10-year journey as a rugby professional – possible oblivion.

Gomarsall’s summer of discontent was brightened by his wife Francesca giving birth to twins, but offers of employment hardly rolled in, despite the scrum-half firing off his CV in all directions.

“Every sort of emotion went through my mind – including not playing again,” he said.

“I had a knee injury at the end of last season, which I was worried about, and every sort of emotion goes through your head. I had to start thinking on a short-term basis.”

Worcester’s Premiership rivals Harlequins though, then offered him a nine-month deal, and a career at the Twickenham Stoop that began with a reserve team game on an autumnal Monday night has snowballed to such an extent, he recently penned a two-year contract.

Gomarsall added: “To be involved with England again was a distant dream last summer.

“I have had the opportunity with Quins, which I am exceptionally grateful for, and it has got me back into the England squad.

“I didn’t think I would get an opportunity straight away at Quins, but Steve So’oialo broke his hand, which meant I was involved pretty much immediately, and it has just gone from there.

“My immediate responsibility was playing well for Quins, getting them on the front foot and winning some games.”

Gomarsall’s Worcester situation is destined to be settled in the High Court later this summer – by which time he could be well on course for a second successive World Cup campaign.

It is more than a decade since Gomarsall made his England debut against Italy at Twickenham, but the current battle for that coveted number nine shirt is a three-cornered fight between himself, Bristol’s Shaun Perry and London Irish-bound Peter Richards.

Rounds one and two are scheduled for Bloemfontein and Pretoria during the next fortnight, when a severely-depleted England squad tackle their pivotal World Cup pool opponents South Africa.

It is a challenge 23 times capped Gomarsall relishes, and one that has effectively arisen due to Leicester scrum-half Harry Ellis suffering a World Cup-ending knee injury.

Gomarsall added: “It is a massive opportunity, one that I am fully aware of, and it is up to me to deal with it.

“I have just got to not do much talking and show what I can do on the pitch – that’s the key to it.

“I know Harry was firmly [England] number one. He’s had a fantastic season and I am gutted for him, but I know how it feels because I’ve been injured and missed tours.

“He must be completely traumatised by what has happened, but hopefully, he has got a good support system behind him and he will come back stronger for it.

“I have not been part of the England squad for a while, but my enthusiasm and hunger was still there.

“I have always said that if I am playing in the Premiership, then I want to be playing at the top and put myself as the best scrum-half in the country.

“I still feel there is unfinished business. I look back and I know I haven’t produced the goods yet, and that is my huge challenge coming up.

“Going from thinking I might not play again, to signing a nine-month contract with Quins, which has now been extended by anothe

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