Dan Robson views his two-year wait for a first England start as a possible blessing as he continues to snap at the heels of first-choice scrum-half Ben Youngs.
Eddie Jones’ overwhelming preference for Test centurion Youngs means he has started only four players in the position throughout his five-year reign, in the process restricting Robson to nine replacement appearances.
Even against Italy, by far the weakest opponents in the Guinness Six Nations, Jones confined Robson to a bench role while leaving the promising Harry Randall out of the 23 altogether as Youngs amassed his 106th cap.
It is one of several selections that has invited criticism on to England’s head coach, but Robson believes the delay will ultimately prove beneficial.
“Looking back, you’re always wanting to start and thinking that you’re there,” said the Wasps half-back, who has impressed during his 55 minutes of action as a replacement in this year’s Six Nations.
“But in hindsight I’m definitely in a lot better position now than I was a couple of years ago when I first got in and around the squad.
“It’s hopefully going to be for the best. My game is probably in a better place now. Before I was maybe perceived as an impact player.
“It was obviously an easy out for me to be like ‘yep, that’s fine, I’m in the England squad, I’ve achieved a lifelong goal. Two minutes off the bench, I’ll take that’.
“It’s pretty naive looking back but that’s the way it was for me. Now I’m in here again.”
Robson’s debut Six Nations was cut short by deep vein thrombosis, ending his hopes of appearing in the World Cup later that year.
“What happened with the injury a couple of years ago put a lot of perspective on things for me,” Robson said.
“I feel my game is in a better place, my head space is in a better place. I know that if I get the nod to start, I’ll really embrace that and do the shirt as proud as possible.
“As a finisher, we’ve been given that license to really add something, really try to change the game and that’s all I’ve got to do.
“I have to keep working hard and if I get that opportunity to start I’ll enjoy that as well.”
Robson has spoken frequently to Jack Willis since his Wasps team-mate suffered a terrible knee injury against Italy that has left him facing a long spell in rehabilitation.
Starting with the round-three appointment against Wales on Saturday week, Robson insists Willis’ misfortune will drive England on as they look to retain their Six Nations crown.
“It was pretty horrifying. That moment he screamed out was probably the worst moment I have had in a long time on a rugby field. It was pretty devastating for him,” Robson said.
“He is a strong kid, Jack. He is mentally pretty resilient and physically he is a bit of a freak. I think he will definitely get through this.
“For us we just said straight away ‘let’s go out and finish it for him’. It will definitely be in the back of people’s minds, to get that extra bit of motivation if it’s needed, especially going down to Wales.”