Having represented his country for the first time in Sunday’s 73-12 victory over the Barbarian, Mark Wilson reflects on his first experience as an England player.
Mark Wilson admits it’s been a bit of a whirlwind few weeks since he received his first call up to the England squad for last weekend’s game against the Barbarians.
Finding out the news on the day of the Falcons’ end of season dinner, the Cumbrian Back Row stuck around at Kingston Park for an extra week of solo training before heading off to join up with his England team mates at the start of last week.
“I was absolutely delighted and it hasn’t quite sunk in, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind but it’s been a fantastic experience.
“It’s been really really enjoyable week. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would because I thought I’d be really nervous and stuff but it was a great group of lads.
“I learned a lot too about what it takes to be an England player and the homework and the training you have to put in so it was a really enjoyable week.”
Renowned as a hard-working and talented Aviva Premiership player, how different did Wilson find his first experience with England to his club routine?
“To be honest it’s very similar, it’s just the fact that when you turn up to training you’ve got to know your roles. You can’t afford any of the guys not knowing what they’re doing, especially with the brief time that we had together. We came together really quickly and I was really surprised with how well we gelled.
“The sheer pace of how things happen was the biggest shock to the system but I soon got accustomed to it.”
Although being part of the England squad was a new experience for Wilson the inclusion of a number of former Falcons team mates, including the recently departed Kieran Brookes, certainly made the Kendal-born star feel more at home.
“To have Brookesy there and Josh Beaumont who’s a good friend, we were in exactly the same boat so I had a lot in common with them and the likes of Will Chudley.
“Brookesy was spot on in terms of his support. I got roomed with him as well which meant that after we got back from training I could just relax and not worry about other stuff so it definitely helped.
“But if they hadn’t been there I don’t think it would’ve been an issue either because the other lads were very down to earth and very welcoming.”
And it wasn’t just his fellow players that helped Wilson to quickly feel part of the team, but also those behind the scenes.
“The coaches and backroom staff had bags of enthusiasm and really made you feel like you were special. They were constantly boosting your confidence as well so it really helped, especially for myself but I know it gave a lot of confidence to all of the younger guys and the guys who were playing their first game.
"Just the general feel good factor around the whole experience and the enthusiasm of the other guys as well were great.”
Having been championed for an international call up by the Falcons family all season, it took a while for the realisation that he would be wearing the red rose at Twickenham to sink in for Wilson.
“It was probably the team run day when it properly sunk in. We got asked as the new guys who hadn’t played before to speak in front of the group and say what it meant to play for England. It was surprisingly quite an emotional thing for a lot of guys because you were hearing their stories and how they’ve got to where they are. That was probably the moment when it sunk in and from then on it was just excitement.
“We had our meeting at the hotel and once I got onto the bus it just felt like a normal game to me. It was weird I thought I’d be a lot more nervous and overwhelmed by it all but obviously it was fantastic. Running out for the warm up was a great feeling, and to see my shirt on the peg there with my name above it was something that I’ll always savour.
“Twickenham itself was probably only about half full but there was enough atmosphere there to really get us going and the national anthem was really special, that was probably one of the best moments of the whole experience.”
Despite receiving high praise from fans and commentators alike for his typically robust performance in England’s 73-12 drubbing of the renowned touring side, Wilson remains humble as always.
“Hopefully I’ve made a good account for myself. I still made a few mistakes and I’ve got a long way to go but hopefully I showed the coaches enough of what I’m about and hopefully that’ll stand me in good stead for future selections.”
And the 25 year old admits that the experience has certainly whetted his appetite for future international rugby, with many already tipping him for full honours following the upcoming World Cup.
“Obviously I’m not involved with the training squad over the next few months but certainly afterwards, it’s given me the appetite to go on next season and try to have another good season with the club then hopefully push for honours next summer.
“The whole week has given me that appetite and that hunger to try and strive for the post-world cup stuff.”
So in all, was the experience worth an extra week of training and a delay to his own family holiday at a time when his team mates were spread far and wide across the globe already enjoying their summer break?
“Definitely. Obviously I missed my family while I was there but this was something I’ve been waiting for since I was a young lad when I first started playing rugby so I didn’t really think twice about it!”