Eastmond to seize second chance
Five months ago Kyle Eastmond shouldered the blame for England's implosion in the final Test in New Zealand by enduring the dishonour of being replaced at half-time.
Just two weeks after his clever footwork had tormented the All Blacks in Auckland, Eastmond's defensive frailties were exploited amid a poor team performance that resulted in a 29-6 half-time deficit.
While his international last rites were being read outside the England camp, a conversation with Stuart Lancaster at Auckland Airport convinced the head coach there would be no lasting damage to the rugby league convert's confidence.
An outstanding start to the season at Bath, where he has been the Aviva Premiership's form player, combined with Manu Tuilagi's autumn-ending groin injury, have seen him earn another crack at the All Blacks at Twickenham on Saturday
"We talked after the third Test and Kyle said 'don't worry about me, I'll be back and I'll make sure I'm starting at inside centre for Bath and England'. And that determination has carried him through," Lancaster said.
Upon his return from the 3-0 series whitewash in New Zealand there was no guarantee Eastmond would be picked by Bath, never mind England.
A troubled 2013-14 season reached its nadir when he walked out on his club team-mates midway through a game and was dropped by his club for the final month of the season.
Redemption seemed to come in June when he lit up Eden Park, but having been dropped for the second Test to make room for Billy Twelvetrees, it was snatched away when reinstated for the third as the All Blacks marauded down his channel.
"The third Test didn't go as well as we'd have liked, for the team and for me as an individual, but I'm not stupid enough to think 40 minutes is going to put me back," Eastmond said.
"Every single player has ups and downs in their career, but it's about how you come back. That's what I tried to do when I got back to Bath.
"I thought about my own game in the off season and what I want to get out of it.
That's important because you have to know what you want out of your career and apply that.
"I took a lot of strength out of the first Test. As a team we went to Eden Park and put in a good performance.
"I'm not thinking about the third Test. I learnt from that, came back and tried to apply myself the best I can to give myself an opportunity.
"I got a lot out of the tour. I learnt more going on the tour than not going.
"If I'd stayed in Bath and knocked around there for three weeks I wouldn't have learnt anything. But by going on the tour I've come back a better player."
The diminutive Eastmond will be dwarfed by opposite number Sonny Bill Williams at Twickenham on Saturday, but he will not be cowed by the size differential.
"I've never been big, so I'm used to it. You just get in there. It's not all about size, you have to understand your opposite number, what he's going to do and be ready for that," Eastmond said.
"If you're ready you can produce good performances. Hopefully we can put in a great performance."