Cadan Murley knows exactly what he has to do to make Steve Borthwick’s England squad for this autumn’s Rugby World Cup – and has turned to watching Manchester City striker Erling Haaland to make sure he is on the plane to France.
Murley is one of five uncapped players called up to Borthwick’s 41-player training camp and has just over a month to prove his capability before the final 33-man squad is announced on 7 August.
The Harlequins’ winger is fresh from another impressive season in the Premiership, where he finished as the league’s top try-scorer with 14 scores and the 23-year-old is now turning to another clinical marksman to further improve his game.
“Every sportsman looks at other sports and wonders how they can improve, and you have just got to look at [Haaland’s] goalscoring record this season, it has been absolutely incredible,” said Murley.
“As a [Manchester] United fan it has been pretty tough to say!
“The big thing I speak about is those relationships, a lot of his goals have been called a tap-in, but you have got to be there, you have got to be in the right places, and I think a lot of that is to do with his relationships and understanding with the players around him.
“He has got some of the best assisters around him, [Kevin] De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, [Riyad] Mahrez but he still has to be in the right place at the right time to know what they are going to do and know how to finish.
“Just watching him play, you can always see he is always so alert, always live in the play, looking around for where the opportunity is going to come.
“A lot of wingers these days, that’s where a lot of your tries come; if you can read the play early and know who you are around.
“We don’t know who is going to get picked so I need to have relationships with the whole 41-man squad at the moment, trying to work on them, think how other people think, not just the Quins boys.”
As well as turning to football, Murley has received a clear vision from head coach Borthwick about what he is looking for from his wingers and where his chances of making the final squad sit.
The former England captain revealed he has been in discussion with all players about how he sees them, a refreshing honesty highly appreciated by Murley.
“My biggest thing would probably be my high balls aerially, I want to be known as more dominant and get more dominant in the air,” he added. “Get more balls back, attacking the high ball and being safe under that.
“I think this World Cup is going to be massive for contestable kicking so if I can keep improving that and I have worked with Kevin Sinfield and Richard Wigglesworth a lot recently just to try and dominate the air as much as I can.
“I am very clear [in what I need to do]. He [Borthwick] has got a plan for everyone and he knows how to get the best out of people.
“He will call you in for little one-on-ones and go through little things and be so open and honest about where you are, where you need to compete. It is so much better than beating around the bush and not really knowing.”
The 23-year-old is still a relative newcomer to the England set-up and was unused throughout the entirety of this year’s Six Nations campaign.
England’s Summer Series matches begin against Wales at the Principality Stadium on Saturday 5 August (kick off 5.30pm), with a return fixture at Twickenham Stadium scheduled a week later on Saturday 12 August (kick off 5.30pm).
England then travel to Dublin to face Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday 19 August (kick off 5.30pm), before returning to Twickenham Stadium to play Fiji on Saturday 26 August (kick off 3.15pm).
Still uncapped, the winger will have just one match and of course training to prove himself in match conditions, against Warren Gatland’s Wales.
But Murley revealed he has been able to fit into the highly competitive camp – which names former Chelsea boss Graham Potter amongst its visitors – almost as seamlessly as his Norwegian inspiration as he looks to forge relationships with players of all club stripes.
“Off the pitch we are all good mates, we get on really well but as soon as you get on that pitch, you want to be as competitive as you can.
“Everyone forgets about their friendships on the training field, you are just trying to learn and accelerate your growth more than the others.
“Every session you want to try and be at your best, you want to prove what you can do. You have got to be pretty switched on, but you have got to be able to switch off on these camps otherwise it’s a long old stint before the world cup still. So being able to switch off, relax and recover is definitely key as well.
“We are all chucked together from different clubs who play a different way. We don’t know who is going to get picked so I need to have relationships with the whole 41-man squad at the moment, trying to work on them, think how other people think, not just the Quins boys.”
Tickets are available by visiting englandrugby.com/tickets with prices for the England v Wales fixture starting from £40 adult, and from £35 adult for England v Fiji.