Gloucester Rugby: The pressure to perform is huge - Sharples
REFRESHED Charlie Sharples is ready to hit back to top form – and admits only his best will be enough to cement his Gloucester place.
The 23-year-old is back to fitness after a second shoulder injury in four months, and ready to make up for lost time.
Two-cap England wing Sharples missed the summer tour to South Africa to undergo corrective surgery to his left shoulder.
After fighting back for the start of the new campaign, Sharples then sustained damage to his right shoulder in just Gloucester's second game of the season – the 40-31 London Irish victory on September 8.
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The Hong Kong-born flyer returned in Gloucester's 11-6 Mont de Marsan win last week and will start in tonight's Amlin Challenge Cup clash with Bordeaux (kick-off 7.45pm).
Admitting he faces a tough selection battle, Sharples explained: "I want to get a good run of games now hopefully, but there's strong competition for places.
"So it's about battling to get my spot back at the moment, with the form of guys like Shane Monahan and Rob Cook.
"I'd love to get a good run of games and get some good form going now.
"There's pressure on everyone to perform at the moment because there's so much competition – but that's how you bring out the best in people.
"What the boys have achieved so far has been brilliant, and hopefully I can now be a part of all that.
"Obviously I really wanted to go away with England in the summer, and finding out I needed an operation in May was a huge blow.
"But that forces you to rest, and you've got to look at the positives from it.
"And that was having a rest – which was my first real time off for pretty much two years.
"Having that six weeks just getting away from the game really helped.
"So I still feel totally refreshed from that, and hopefully that can help me hit my best form now.
"You need to be feeling at your best to be playing your best, generally, and hopefully I can take advantage of that now.
"I landed quite awkwardly on my shoulder in the Irish match, and I thought 'here we go again'.
"But it settled quite quickly that week, which was a relief.
"I went from hardly any range the day after the game to being able to move it fully a week later.
"But these injuries are quite niggly so it took a while to get all the strength back.
"It's just great to be back and being able to play.
"I was out for four weeks, and you can't really complain about an injury like that because injuries are all part of the game.
"It was definitely frustrating because I worked really hard to get my other shoulder strong in pre-season.
"But I can still take advantage of that rest time over the summer, and that's what I intend to do now."
Revelling in Gloucester's unbeaten status away from home, Sharples said growing confidence is making the Cherry and Whites increasingly hard to beat.
He continued: "It was nice to be back in the mix and in a winning team. I was just glad to be back really after the injury.
"I think our plan going into the game was to move the ball around, but you just can't really do it in weather like that.
"We need to be a bit more clinical of course, but we still got the win and it's something else to build on.
"There's definitely a confidence within the group. It's hard to explain but it's there, that never-say-die attitude.
"You never feel like you are down and out, even if you're five or ten points behind.
"You always feel like you can win.
"It's probably always felt like that at Kingsholm, but the results we've had on the road this term have really helped our confidence overall too.
"Our form away from home is improving, and that's good news.
"It's a good statistic to have that we're undefeated, and we can definitely take confidence from that.
"Obviously we haven't had a test at one of the big sides yet, but it's still good news.
"And hopefully we can keep our form going now."