Scott Spedding may have started the last four matches for France but the South African-born fullback is not assuming he has won the battle to fill the role for the global showpiece.
The 29-year-old — who made his debut for his adopted country last November after living in France for seven years — has grounds to be cautious as he is battling the more offensively-minded Brice Dulin for the fullback spot ahead of their World Cup opener with Italy on September 19 at Twickenham.
However, France head coach Philippe Saint-Andre, whose selection policies over his four-year reign have raised as many eyebrows as his predecessor Marc Lievremont, appears to have placed his faith in the muscular Spedding.
“I feel better now than I did when I began my international career last November,” said Spedding, who through his eyecatching performances for Bayonne gained himself a lucrative move to Top 14 giants Clermont after the Basque side were relegated last term.
“I know the team, the guys and how the system functions much better.
“Of course it is much easier. However, it would be false to think that I am the undisputed fullback.
“Nobody has a divine right to his place in the France team, one is obliged to earn one’s spot every weekend.
“I know I have things I need to work on in my game, I still have work to do.”
Spedding, who burst into tears when he was informed he had been included in the French squad last November after taking the gamble to come to France virtually penniless in 2007, didn’t believe that his more accurate long-range kicking at goal would give him the advantage over Dulin.
“I don’t know. Brice has also been working on his kicking out of hand and goal-kicking from distance.
“I am not working on that so as to win the duel with Brice, but to bring something extra to the team.”
– Sharpen up –
A contemporary of two-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome at boarding school in South Africa, Spedding knows he must cut out errors such as the one he produced during the recent 25-20 win over World Cup hosts England at the Stade de France, a result which avenged their loss to the same opponents at Twickenham the week before.
“There are a lot of things I need to sharpen up on,” said Spedding.
“For example I missed a kick to touch at a key moment of the match just before half-time, which would have allowed the team to gain some ground.
“I must work on that. At this level one does not have the right to make errors such as those.”
Spedding began his rugby career as a fly-half and played for South Africa against France in the final of the Under-20 world championship in 2006 which the French won.
Now, ahead of France’s final warm-up game against Scotland at the Stade de France on Saturday, he knows his adopted country needs to fine-tune aspects of their offensive play.
“It is imperative we work on our offence as it was slightly disappointing against England,” he said.
“We have to convert more of our try-scoring opportunities as we have created a lot without being able to finish them off.
“The more playing time we have the more likely that it will come together. In any case it wasn’t too bad for a second warm-up game (the England match).
“But we know that we are not at the level we wished to be at the moment. We too have a desire to score tries all over the place but we will see (against Scotland).”
Spedding, though, refused to concede that nothing but a big win over the Scots, coached by former Clermont boss Vern Cotter, would suffice as they are generally regarded as a lesser force than the English.
“You cannot say Scotland are a small team, seeing what they did to Italy (they thrashed them 48-7 on Saturday) and the progress they have made over the past two years,” said Spedding.
“Our morale will be important and the target is a win. But we will do everything we can to do it in style.” – Agence France-Presse