Solomona must play his way into Jones’ af­fec­tions

Winger out to im­press

Sport360 - - Front Page - @Sport360 By Alam Khan edi­to­rial@sport360.com

There is a steely look as Denny Solomona ex­plains how he won’t let hurt get the bet­ter of him.

De­spite be­ing “gut­ted” at miss­ing out on the re­cent Eng­land train­ing squad - and the chance to atone for an er­ror of judg­ment that saw him sent home from the pre­vi­ous camp – he used dis­ap­point­ment to be a force for his club.

“Ob­vi­ously it hurt not to be part of the train­ing squad,” said the 24-year-old, whose dra­matic in­ter­na­tional de­but in June against Ar­gentina saw him miss a cou­ple of im­por­tant tack­les be­fore a su­perb solo ef­fort sealed a 38-34 win.

“I was gut­ted, but at the end of the day if I’m not play­ing well for Sale then I’m not going to be in­volved for Eng­land.

“There’s no point kick­ing cans and sulk­ing. I had that day to be dis­ap­pointed when the squad was an­nounced, but it’s in the past now. The fo­cus is on Sale and that’s what will even­tu­ally get me back in, play­ing well, scor­ing tries and help­ing them win games.

“Ed­die Jones has said to work hard. He’s a great coach, but not only a coach, but a men­tor. He’s given me point­ers on how to im­prove, that’s what he wants. If you don’t do it, you are not going to get in the team.”

The shame of be­ing sent home from the Au­gust camp after a late-night drink­ing ses­sion with Manu Tuilagi may linger for as long as he is not part of the Eng­land squad.

But he added: “I didn’t get in­flu­enced, I made my choice and it was a wrong one. It was out of char­ac­ter. I’ve strug­gled a bit with my men­tal state and it was a way out where I could have re­leased it. But it was the wrong time, the wrong place. I’m a lot bet­ter than what came out and what peo­ple said.

“I made a mis­take and will learn from it. The No1 pri­or­ity is to do well for Sale and then hope­fully get back with Eng­land.

“Ev­ery­one says we have a lot of depth and we do. We have a lot of strong char­ac­ters, good play­ers, and it’s tough to be pushed out. But I love the com­pe­ti­tion, you don’t play the sport to have a free run. You want to chal­lenge your­self to know your char­ac­ter.

“It was fan­tas­tic to make my de­but against Ar­gentina. but it’s like that block of choco­late, you’ve had one piece and you want more. That’s what it’s done to me.”

Grow­ing up in Auck­land, Solomona has had to learn to stay strong to deal with what­ever fate de­liv­ered.

The blow of be­ing re­leased by Mel­bourne Storm, his boy­hood idols, in 2014 was a nadir.

“I was about 16 when I went there and it was tough as a young­ster,” he said. “It all comes down to do what you need to do to pro­vide for your fam­ily.

“Since I was five I was play­ing rugby with my brother, he’s two years older, and be­cause my dad, also called Denny, couldn’t coach both nights, a Tues­day-Thursday or Mon­dayWed­nes­day, for both grades, he gave me the ul­ti­ma­tum that I jump up two ages or I get coached by a dif­fer­ent per­son. So I played two age groups above un­til I was about 10.

“It kind of ben­e­fited me, tough­ened me up, but it was hard too be­cause I had to so­cialise with peo­ple a lot older than me and had to grow up a lot faster as a per­son and on a devel­op­ment level. I played First XV in union on a Saturday and then league on a Sun­day.

“I was fo­cus­ing more on union, and had some­thing lined up, but it fell through and then the league op­por­tu­nity came. To go to the club I al­ways loved was a no brainer.

“At the time my older sis­ter dropped out of school and took a part-time job to try to help my fam­ily out. It was tough grow­ing up, we were liv­ing week to week, month to month. As a young is­lander you grow up see­ing that fam­ily strug­gle so all you as­pire to do is pro­vide for them. Luck­ily I got a chance to go to Mel­bourne Storm.

“I had planned on be­ing a one-man club and in there for the long haul. It was ev­ery­thing I wanted. Grow­ing up, watch­ing Mel­bourne win­ning cham­pi­onships, that’s what I thought it was going to be.

“But at the time Billy Slater was in his prime and to get a game at full-back was hard. He was back­ing it up from State of Ori­gin and straight back to play­ing in the side.

“Mel­bourne gave me some op­por­tu­ni­ties and I thought I took them, but it was a mas­sive blow to me as a pro­fes­sional, and a kid, as well when they re­leased me. In the end it was not the worst op­por­tu­nity com­ing to Eng­land. An­other door opened for me.”

That door was the Lon­don Bronco’s Su­per League out­fit and Solomona’s 10 tries in 21 games saw him earn a move to Castle­ford a sea­son later.

The ‘Jun­gle’ was where Solomona was a try-scor­ing beast, set­ting a mark of 42 in 2016, be­fore it all ended ac­ri­mo­niously last De­cem­ber when it was an­nounced he had re­tired with two years left on his con­tract.

When he sub­se­quently switched codes and joined Sale Sharks, a bitter le­gal bat­tle fol­lowed, set­tled fi­nally in June, and over­shad­ow­ing an im­pres­sive de­but sea­son which in­cluded an Eng­land call once he was el­i­gi­ble after com­plet­ing his three-year res­i­dency in the United King­dom.

Re­lieved the Castle­ford case has been re­solved, Solomona - whose side host Toulouse on Fri­day in a Euro­pean Chal­lenge Cup tie - added: “There was a lot of con­tro­versy around it and no one knows the full story. It was men­tally tough, try­ing to wake up pos­i­tive and re­alise what the goal was, and that was to pro­vide for my fam­ily.

“You don’t dwell on it, you can’t. It ei­ther makes or breaks you and I de­cided to use it as a mo­ti­va­tional thing to go for­ward. I thought my first year back in union with Sale was a good one so used it as a pos­i­tive.

“It’s a credit to the boys at Sale too. I felt very welcome, didn’t feel like an out­sider, that things had gone on and they didn’t trust me. They brought me in and made me feel at home from the first day.”

Solomona has de­vel­oped into a winger with the pace, power and fin­ish­ing skills to draw com­par­isons with Wal­laby Lote Tuqiri and Eng­land and Sale icon Ja­son Robinson.

“It’s good to be com­pared to other play­ers like that, but I want to be re­mem­bered in my own right, to make my own mark,” he said.

And, with 16 tries in 20 games since he joined Sale, he is des­per­ate to play his way back into Jones’s plans and a place in the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Ja­pan.

“Ev­ery­one is mak­ing the steps to­wards that, the World Cup would be spe­cial,” he added.

“Ed­die is driv­ing it. That’s ev­ery­one’s as­pi­ra­tions, to play in that World Cup, to play at the high­est level and to win it.

“That’s what I want, there’s more to come and more to achieve.”

I’ve strug­gled a bit with my men­tal state and it was a way out where I could have re­leased it. But it was the wrong time, the wrong place. BE­ING SENT HOME BY ENG­LAND

It was a mas­sive blow to me as a pro­fes­sional, and a kid, as well RE­LEASED BY MEL­BOURNE

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