Gloucester Rugby: James Simpson-Daniel is so special, says Charlie Sharples
WHEN James Simpson-Daniel made Twickenham stand in applause following a delicate dummy flick that left All Black superstar Jonah Lomu for dead, Charlie Sharples was only 12.
The man they call Sinbad was jinking past the best in the world well before wing Sharples was filling a Gloucester Academy jersey.
He now wishes to emulate everything his humble team-mate encompasses as a Gloucester stalwart.
Tonight, Simpson-Daniel will become Gloucester's record Premiership appearance maker, setting his name firmly in the Kingsholm stone.
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Sharples, who will sit on the bench at The Rec for the first West Country derby of the season, is replaced by Sinbad in the starting line-up following last week's Heineken Cup defeat to Munster in Limerick.
He wants to play, there's no doubt about that.
But he can do nothing but marvel at the attitude Simpson-Daniel brings to the Gloucester fold, as he makes his 183rd appearance in cherry and white, surpassing Peter Buxton.
"Sinbad has been a massive influence in my playing career," said 24-year-old Sharples.
"He was always a player I looked up to when I was playing as a teenager with the academy team and fortunately I get to go out and play alongside him most weeks.
"He has been an absolute stalwart for Gloucester and in Gloucester folklore, not just for the record he has but also for the player that he has been.
"He has always been a huge influence on me and helping me out within my playing career and luckily enough we're now friends.
"I would love to emulate what he has achieved.
"Gloucester is my home town, I went to school in Gloucester and know what it means to play for the club. It means a huge amount to me to pull on the shirt on and emulate some of the success that he has with his career."
Gloucester are seeking their third win from six on their return to domestic duties in tonight's epic encounter.
Nigel Davies' side were beaten in this fixture last season but The Rec has generally been a productive hunting ground for the Kingsholm set- up in recent years. They come off a defeat at the hands of Munster in the Heineken Cup – a game in which Sharples scored – and followed a deserved and hard-earned win over Perpignan a week earlier.
"It's been a funny old week because we had the Munster game on the Saturday and we've had a quick turnaround as it's a Friday night game," Sharples continued.
"We had a pretty low-key day on Monday and, before you know it, it's team run so it has come round very quickly.
"It's one of those things that where, even though you may not have the heavy training load, the derby game brings an extra bit of spice to the whole situation and it's kind of more mental preparation and ready for the challenge that is coming.
"Every game for us at the minute is a massive game, especially in the Premiership and, maybe because of the inconsistency we've shown, we're not in the position we would like to be.
"The fact that it's Gloucester/ Bath at The Rec on a Friday night, they don't come much bigger than that."
Sharples recognises finishing has let the team down in a knife-edge start to the season.
His try away to Munster came from a quick dart from Dan Robson on the short-side setting Sharples free.
He explained: "That's definitely something we can improve and be better at because, if we finished some of the opportunities we've created, the scorelines may have been very different.
"That was a good example I feel. When you get a piece of field position in areas like that, you want to come away with something.
"It was just one of those instinctive things, when Dan saw that there was a bit of space down the blindside, we all reacted to it and managed to get the try.
"The problem has been a question of coughing up the ball in the important areas.
"You may get a handful of opportunities in the opposition's scoring area and, when you're there, you have got to capitalise on them whether they are points from penalties or by scoring tries.
"We need to be coming away with points and putting the squeeze on teams."