THE son of a former Duns rugby player could be in line to make his full international debut in the RBS Six Nations - for England against Scotland!
Calum Clark, son of former Duns player David Clark, who represented Scotland at Under-21 level, was on the fringes of the England team this time last year when he was hit with a 32-week ban for breaking the elbow of Leicester hooker Rob Hawkins in the LV= Cup final.
The suspension, one of the biggest handed down in England, ran from March until November last year and ruled Clark out of England’s summer tour and the autumn internationals.
However, England coach Stuart Lancaster has put his trust in Calum after giving the controversial Northampton forward a second chance to build his international career and is confident he has the temperament and talent to thrive in Test rugby.
Having not yet played for England at senior level, Calum is still qualified to play for the country of his father’s birth. But now Lancaster has given him the opportunity to be in contention to make his debut against Scotland at Twickenham on February 2.
“I have coached him since he was 14 and I know him well enough to know that he is hugely regretful of the incident,” said Lancaster, who watched Calum develop through the Leeds academy. “When he went into the hearing he didn’t do anything other than put his hands up and say, ‘I made a bad mistake, I apologise’.
“He has never felt anything other than remorse. He has served his punishment, a 32-week ban. I was disappointed we ended up in the situation that he missed out on developing himself for club and country. Massively. But equally, as with other players in the past, I think everyone deserves a second chance – and certainly he does.
“I have watched his games closely and observed his behaviour to make sure he is on the right side of where he should be. He has a competitive nature but he is channelling that in the right way. I know what he can offer.”
Calum has replaced lock Mouritz Botha and will offer Lancaster options as both a combative back row and in the second row. “In addition to his desire to win, his versatility in the second row is an option for us. He is incredibly athletic and very good in the contact areas,” Lancaster said.
“He’s got to have the desire to play in the second row for him to be successful. I’ve checked that is the case and he’s happy.”
Lancaster is backing Calum to make a similar impact during the Six Nations that England saw from the likes of Joe Launchbury, Tom Youngs and Mako Vunipola in the autumn.
“What he’s got to do is make the step from a good player of potential to an international player,” Lancaster said.