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Clark relishing England challenge

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

Clark – who won both the Supporters’ Player and Players’ Player of the Season awards last term as well as the Saints Supporters Club Player of the Season gong – had his performances rewarded by a call-up from England head coach Stuart Lancaster.

Lancaster has made no secret of the expectations he has of the national squad as they prepare for Rugby World Cup 2015, the first time the tournament has been based in England since 1991, and Clark is relishing the challenge that has been laid down.

“I really relish the hard work,” he told EnglandRugby.com. “It’s something I love as a component of the game. With everything at our disposal, we have a big opportunity to be the best that we can be and get ourselves in the best shape of our lives.

“Obviously it’s something that is really important for how I play. I’ve got to get to things first. If somebody makes a break, I want to be there on their shoulder to take an offload or hit the ruck to secure the ball.”

Clark was consistently outstanding throughout 2014/15, recognised by three Steffans Player of the Month awards, but he finds himself in one of the most competitive positions within the England squad.

As well as club mate Tom Wood he will have to see off the likes of James Haskell, Chris Robshaw and Matt Kvesic if he is to be chosen in the final 31-man squad that will take on Wales, Australia, Fiji and Uruguay in the pool stages, and hopefully the rest of the rugby world in the knockout stages.

But with the back row also one of the strengths at Franklin’s Gardens Clark says that he can only ever control what he does himself, and selection is up to the coaches.

“In my situation, it’s important not to think about squad selection,” he added. “It’s an uncontrollable for me. There are things I can control on a day-to-day basis, but I can’t control the decisions that are made in that room.

“To concern myself with that would be to take away from doing the best that I can. I’m genuinely not thinking of anything else.

“That’s a mental challenge in itself, because to be part of this would be such a huge achievement. Worrying about it would detract from me being the best that I can be, though. I just can’t afford for that to happen when I’m in the position that I am with so many established players around.”