Newcastle Falcons fans might be celebrating the news that England wing Marland Yarde will not be lining up against them on Sunday, but Ryan Shortland is bucking the trend.
The Kiwi winger, who scored a fine finisher’s try in Saturday’s 23-16 loss in Brive, insists he wants to test himself against the best, even if that means going toe to toe with London Irish’s in-form try machine.
That will now not happen thanks to head coach Stuart Lancaster’s decision to retain him in the England squad preparing to face Australia next weekend, although a former Newcastle player has been mischievously goading Shortland all week about it.
“Michael Mayhew, our former hooker, shares a house with Marland, and he has been sending me messages winding me up about playing against him,” said Shortland. “It has all just been banter and a bit of fun between mates, but Irish have good depth and I am sure they will be able to cope with that loss by bringing another good player into the side.”
Disappointed to miss out on a chance to have a crack at Yarde, he added: “You always want to play against the best, and he is just unreal at the moment. He is a fantastic attacking player, and a very smart runner.
“It is probably a good thing for the team that he isn’t playing, but I always want to put myself up against the best players that are out there.
“I don’t really read too much into who is in the opposition side, other than the analysis we do in the lead-up, but with someone like Yarde you just want to see what you can do against them.”
In line for a potential tussle with countryman Mayhew, the Kiwi hooker who left Newcastle for London Irish during the summer after a loan spell last season, Shortland joked: “He is probably down there trying to tell them all our plays.
“In all seriousness it would be good to see him again, and to face him if he was selected in their side. We know what each other is about, and he is a very strong attacking player. He loves the gym, which helps his ball-carrying, and he enjoys the pick-and-go around the ruck. We will just have to see how his throwing-in at the lineout goes, and try to put him off a bit!”
Finally staging a home game after three successive away dates including trips to Romania and France, the former rugby league man insists weariness it not a major issue due to careful management of their players during the Amlin Challenge Cup fortnight.
“We are not too bad, largely due to the squad rotation,” said Shortland.
“If you are on the fringes of the side it can be a little tough, because as well as playing the European games there have been some long away trips with the A-League side to Northampton and Gloucester on the Monday nights.
“It has been a hell of a three weeks when you consider the mileage that has been clocked up, especially by those boys, but the staff have been aware of that and adjusting the training load accordingly.”
With the Falcons and Exiles having been the bookies’ favourites for relegation at the start of the season, both have defied that outlook to a degree by winning two of their opening five league games, cutting Worcester Warriors adrift at the bottom.
Shortland said: “Both ourselves and Irish desperately need this win, and both have good attacking players. Hopefully that combines to make it a good game for the supporters, and a result they can enjoy.
“The boys have been building, our pack showed up well in Brive and that will mean a confidence we can benefit from at the weekend.”