Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Attwood faced daddy of all dilemmas

Dave Attwood admits he began the week faced with the "horrific" dilemma of choosing between playing for England or attending the birth of his first child.

Attwood's involvement in Saturday's QBE Series opener against New Zealand at Twickenham was plunged into doubt when last Friday's due date came and went, resulting in contingency plans being drawn up by the England management.

The decision was taken out of the Bath lock's hands when fiancee Bridget gave birth to daughter Jessica on Tuesday, bringing relief to a new father who was acutely aware of the need to seize the chance presented when Joe Launchbury had been ruled out of the autumn internationals with a neck injury.

"It was horrific really. Emotionally there were two very big battlefields," said Attwood.

"The first is being supportive of my fiancee, being present at the birth of my child and doing everything I can to help them out. The first child is once-in-a-lifetime. You will never get to re-do that.

"And then obviously this game holds particular significance for me because my first cap was against New Zealand.

"It has been my best start to a season ever and that has resulted in me being here and I would like to argue that's happened on merit.

"Obviously with the next 12 months shaping up as they are, this is the time to stand up and be counted.

"I can't stress how high a price I put on this game - before this autumn came along, before we even knew there was a pregnancy in the family.

"And then on Monday morning I'm sitting there, thinking 'Oh my God, could you not hurry up and have the baby?' She arrived on Tuesday and it was a dream.

"It's been a crazy week containing probably two of the biggest events of my life to date.

"If things had happened Saturday morning, I would have played the game (and missed the birth). But if things had happened on Friday, or even Friday night, I would have gone back (to his family)."

England head coach Stuart Lancaster dismissed any suggestion the events of this week may have left his second row ill-prepared to face New Zealand and Attwood himself views Jessica's arrival as a source of strength.

"I had an interesting conversation with (scrum-half) Danny Care about 'dad strength' and how every little facet of your life gets a little extra gilt edge," he said.

"You push a little more with everything you do because you're a lot more responsible. You have a greater awareness and perspective of everything you do and its impact.

"We talk about that not necessarily in terms of how much you can bench press but the fact you could pull a tree out of the ground and batter someone with it. Not the standard strength tests!

"That carries a big mental carry-over as well. That's the real key this weekend. You get another barrier, another buffer. You make a mistake and it doesn't matter.

"On Tuesday night Jessica slept the whole night through. I think they quite often do but we were still sat there thinking 'Er, what was that? Is she dead? Is she sleeping?'

"We sat up wide awake panicking - 'what do we now, what do we do now?' So we spent all of Tuesday sat bolt upright and didn't get a lot of sleep.

"That gives you a lot of perspective that's incredibly powerful. On Saturday I'm sure at some point I'll drop a ball or give away a penalty or do something stupid.

"And I'll get back on the horse straight away and realise that it doesn't matter and that it won't affect how you're going to be playing the rest of the game."

Had all of England's locks been fit, Launchbury and Courtney Lawes were the likely starters against the All Blacks with Attwood among the replacements - success in itself given second row is the squad's most competitive position.

Ten of Attwood's 12 caps have been won off the bench, most recently in the first and third Tests on the June tour of New Zealand, but his form for Bath this season has been superb after shedding eight kilograms over the summer.

"After the Argentina tour in 2013 I wanted to be the most powerful, destructive player in a five-metre grid that I could be," he said.

"I wanted it so that anyone that came into my area, or anyone's area that I went into, would come off second best.

"But the feedback I got back over the summer was that if I wanted to stake a claim to be more than a sub for England, I had to make a significant change.

"One of them was that I decided to lose some weight. Now my involvements are not only are higher, but they are also still a very high quality."

How to Complain

If you have a complaint about the editorial content of the Belfast Telegraph or Sunday Life then contact the Editor here. If you are not satisfied with the response provided then you can contact the Independent Press Standards Organisation here

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph