British & Irish Lion Ugo Monye insists flyer Marland Yarde’s summer switch to Harlequins will give him the necessary injection to nail down a World Cup spot with England, writes Sacha Clayton.
Yarde, 22, has enjoyed a rollercoaster last 12 months; winning his first cap for Stuart Lancaster’s England and producing a series of barnstorming displays for London Irish, while also suffering an elongated spell on the sidelines with injury.
A start in England’s first autumn international against Australia was then followed by injury that saw him miss the whole of the Six Nations and uncapped duo Jonny May and Jack Nowell leapfrog him in the wing pecking order.
Playing behind a robust pack at the Twickenham Stoop, challenging for silverware at the top of the Aviva Premiership and feeding off the creativity of Harlequins duo Danny Care and Nick Evans is certain to improve Yarde.
And that’s exactly why Monye is backing the Harlequins new boy, who scored a hat-trick for London Irish in their penultimate Premiership clash before signing off from the Madejski with a try against Sale SHarks, to nail down a World Cup starting spot on tour with England this summer in New Zealand.
“I think he can have a massive impact in New Zealand with England this summer and really enhance his World Cup ambitions,” said Monye, speaking about his new Harlequins’ wing colleague.
“I spoke to him when he signed and just said ‘hey, you’ve got a two-year contract here, but what’s to say you couldn’t be here for the next ten or 15 years?’
“He is an exciting player and he stands out on the pitch with his big dreadlocks – the supporters will welcome him really well if he gets his head down, puts in the hard yards and does what he has been signed to do.
“He could have a huge impact at this club. The style of which he plays really complements what we do here as a club so I think he is joining the best club to suit his game.”
Competition for the wing positions is fierce with injured Wasp Christian Wade, Bath’s Anthony Watson, Chris Ashton, Yarde and the two current incumbents, Nowell and May, all in the frame for a World Cup start.
But its England utility back Manu Tuilagi – normally a centre but struggling to hold down a starting position due to the form of centres Luther Burrell and Billy Twelvetrees – that Monye believes will provide the biggest obstacle for Yarde.
“I think with the partnership of Luther Burrell and Billy Twelvetrees in the centres for England, if I was Stuart Lancaster I would have Manu on the wing now,” said Monye.
“It could be a problem for Marland and others.
“Just give him a roaming role and I think he could be exceptional on the wing. He is a dangerous player who attracts so much attention in defence.
“You’re a year and a half out from the World Cup and you have a look at it. Billy and Luther seem so settled there and they work really well so I think it would be a tough call to drop one of those guys for Manu.
“But Manu is too big a character and too big a player not to have in your team. You have got to factor in to get all the best players on the pitch but also all in the right position.”
* Ugo Monye was speaking at the launch of the Aviva Premiership Rugby Policy. Sign up for exclusive access to interviews and competitions at premiershiprugby.com/avivarugbypolicy