Gloucester flyer Ollie Thorley has been given work-ons by Eddie Jones but will not become “transfixed” about winning his first Test cap despite being the nearly man of England’s Six Nations.
After being part of the Red Rose training squad prior to the World Cup but missing out on the main event, Thorley, 23, was again involved throughout the Six Nations.
But that first appearance continued to elude him, with centre Jonathan Joseph selected to play against Ireland on the wing.
“It’s been a very intense few months and the Six Nations was one of the weirder ones in living memory, but being involved in the squad has been amazing,” Thorley said.
“I feel like I’ve been getting better and better and I’m learning from the respective environments I’ve been in with England and Gloucester, so I’ve enjoyed the last couple of months and I’ll continue to keep on trying to improve.”
He added: “You can get transfixed on winning a first cap and while I want to play for England, I also want to do everything I can to ensure I earn that shirt. Eddie Jones has been honest with me about things he wants me to work on, so I’m doing that.
“I’ll continue to train well and as long as I’m on that curve of upward improvement, when I do get my Test chance I’ll be in a better position to do my bit. I’m not worried about my first cap, I just want to make sure I get better.”
Asked whether he felt frustrated over Joseph’s selection against Ireland, Thorley says: “I imagine that was a close call, but Eddie just told me to keep working and that’s what I’ll keep doing.
“That was JJ’s 50th cap and he’s a very experienced Test player in what was a big game for England at Twickenham, so Eddie probably just wanted players who’ve played together a lot.
“Ultimately, it was a great win for England over Ireland, so the most important thing is the England side goes out and performs, which is what happened.”
As a bustling, physical winger with pace to burn, Thorley’s work-ons revolve around his involvements in matches and, to that end, he is a keen student of the top wings around the world.
“There are small things I can improve, like my feel for the game and how I get involved at different times. They’re not big things but a combination of them can have a big impact,” he said.
“To that end, it’s important to look at other wingers and I’ve really enjoyed how Marika Koroibete over in Australia plays. He had a really strong year, particularly in the build-up to the World Cup and during that tournament.
“Style-wise, he’s similar to how I like to play and I enjoyed watching Joe Rokocoko as well. Rieko Ioane, Semi Radradra, I love those explosive wingers in terms of how they involve themselves in the game.”
As Thorley seeks those marginal gains, a big disappointment has been Gloucester’s form since the turn of the year, with five successive Premiership defeats significantly denting their play-off chances.
“We’ve collected a lot of losing bonus points but just haven’t put everything together,” said Thorley. “A major part of it has been our collective indiscipline. We’ve conceded too many silly penalties in bad positions at bad times in games.
“When we’ve got the ball in hand, we’re still creating opportunities and finishing well. That hasn’t changed; we just need a bit of momentum and things will fall into place.”