Easter: I deserved a recall
Nick Easter believes only his age prevented him earning an England recall but is still backing them to win the forthcoming Six Nations.
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The 35-year-old Harlequins number eight has been playing the best rugby of his career over the past couple of seasons - a view recently expressed by his club coach Conor O'Shea - and he'd been tipped by several observers to be called up to Stuart Lancaster's squad last week.
But Easter, who won the last of his 47 caps in England's 2011 World Cup quarter-final against France, was once again left out of the Elite Player Squad as well as the largely inexperienced Six Nations group as Lancaster continued to look to the future.
With a three-Test series against the All Blacks this summer in New Zealand on the horizon - not to mention next year's World Cup on home soil - Easter understands why the head coach is sticking to his policy but feels there should be more emphasis on picking the best players in each position, regardless of their age.
Asked why he felt Lancaster overlooked him, the former England captain told sportinglife.com: "It has to be down to the age factor.
"I think my form certainly merited a return to the England squad over the last three years but I'm afraid it's down to a matter of opinion especially in team sports. In individual sports you can take on your opposition one on one and prove you're better but in a team sport if the England manager thinks someone else is better than you've just got to take it on the chin.
"Picking younger players is the path they've gone down but I think in any sport at the top level you've got to pick the best team at any given time.
"If he feels his best team is the one he's picking full of youngsters then brilliant for him and I think ultimately the World Cup is the goal and that's what we all want England to win. It's just under two years away so they need to build experience thick and fast and learn very quickly."
Back England at 6/1 to win the Grand Slam
England open their Six Nations campaign away to France on February 1 aiming to make up for last season's grand slam heartache and Easter fully expects them to make a winning start as well as getting their revenge on Wales.
He said: "I do fancy England's chances. I know they have three games away but France are looking a complete mess at the moment and they've got them first up. England will go into that game certainly a lot mentally stronger than the French, who have a pretty abysmal record over the last 12 months.
"Given the players they've got, it's pretty unacceptable to be having the results they've had and to be playing like that. You never know with the French. They do tend to do well after there's been a Lions tour the previous year but I'm not sure they'll do well.
"So England should get off to a good start away and then I do fancy them at home to both Ireland and Wales. I don't think Wales will be as good as they have been in the last two years. I know they're suffering from a few injuries and I just think it's about time this England side beat them because they've lost to them two years in a row.
"Ireland are developing well but I'm not sure they'll have the consistency to push Wales and England for the title."
Easter puts his superb form down to playing at a club who are continually involved in big matches in England and Europe, which in turn motivates him to prolong his career at this level even further.
He said: "I'm lucky to play at a club which plays a great brand of rugby with a lot of history and I'm just focused on making more with them.
"I think over the last three years I’ve been playing some of the best rugby of my career and I’m really enjoying it. We’ve been playing in big games regularly which I thrive on and every week brings something different.
"It’s those big games you really want to perform in because I don’t have too long left playing at this level so you’ve got to make each moment count.
"You could get to your first Grand Final aged 22 and never make one again - so you've got to make the most of every opportunity as it comes. As you get older I guess there is a more conscience realisation that these could be your last chances so it does add to the motivation."
- Nick Easter is represented by ROAR Sport @ROARSPORT1