Guscott column: Still time for Yarde to turn his image around at Sale




By Jeremy Guscott

Marland Yarde has got to play at a club where he fits in and feels he can go about making the most of his ability in the right way, and, hopefully, his move to Sale Sharks will do that for him. There seems to have been some kind of communications breakdown between him and Harlequins this season, with the result that he has not lived up to the demands of the culture at The Stoop.

Yarde has missed a few training sessions, and the reasons that he gave could not have been satisfactory enough for the bosses at Quins. Reading from the quotes from Chris Robshaw at England’s training camp in Portugal, when a senior Harlequins player of his stature says it’s time for Marland to move on, then it probably isn’t best for him, or the club, to stay together.

I was sometimes difficult to work with during my rugby career, mainly because I always had a lot of questions. It was the same at school, where the questions were seen as disruptive, even though I had a very good attendance record and only ever had one detention.

However, although I still had plenty of questions when I was at Bath, I was never late for a training session, and I also had all the basic manners and respect for others in place.

I had a superb work ethic, part of which was because I never wanted to let anyone down, and I worked hard throughout my career to maintain that. So, my view is that if you cannot turn up on time then, in the end, it just won’t happen for you.

Sale boss Steve Diamond comes from the amateur era, when he was a good tough player at the club, and he’s been out and about in the game. At one stage he coached Russia, and he’s got the reputation of a character who knows how to deal with people.

Diamond managed well with Danny Cipriani, and he seems to be doing the same with James O’Connor – and during his time at Sale you have not heard about players leaving because there were problems with team culture.

That’s why Marland Yarde will have to understand that no-one in pro sport will accept a player who turns up late to training, or does not turn up at all. I have no doubt that he is a talented player with loads of ability – but he has to work on being as good a person off the field as he is on it.

It’s not that long ago since the 2014 England tour of New Zealand when he barged over Richie McCaw to score a try, and he was one of the few England players who enhanced their reputations in that away series. However he was not able to convince Stuart Lancaster that he should be his starting winger in the autumn internationals and Six Nations the following season. It’s rumoured he didn’t make the England World Cup final squad because he wasn’t considered fit enough, a professional rugby player should never fall short on fitness.

Yarde was at London Irish when they were inconsistent, and he did not score masses of tries in the same way that his new teammate, and rival, Denny Solomona, has for Sale, who are another club which blows hot and cold.

He has to show the sort of consistency that Solomona has if he wants to catch the eye of the England coaches. Yarde has got the best part of a decade left in the game if he looks after himself, but he wants to get in the position where his rugby is doing the talking.

Off the pitch he will be more anonymous in Manchester than he was around the Twickenham area, and he needs to turn that to his advantage. If you get a reputation in sport, I’m afraid it stays with you. He could go a few years and not have another incident, but if he ever does he will find out that he has been labelled. He will have to live with it, which is all part of growing up when you’ve made mistakes.

Above everything his aim is to score as many amazing tries as possible.

I mentioned him playing at outside-centre a few years ago, but a lot of wingers simply do not think about giving the pass. Their DNA is to go as far as they possibly can, and then pass, instead of looking to put somebody clear who is in a better position. Marland is very much like that, whereas a guy like New Zealand’s Ben Smith can play with his eyes wide open in multiple positions.

Yarde is a strong, powerful runner who has decent speed, but he is not known for leaping high to win the ball in airborne challenges. He has sound defence, and a few weeks ago against Wasps in the Premiership he scored a try and then minutes later he made a touchline tackle to prevent Wasps winger Marcus Watson from scoring. However, like most wingers he doesn’t have a reputation as a passer.

My sense is that there is something frustrating Yarde, and he needs to find a solution. I cannot see that he would have been frustrated as a player with the way Harlequins attack, so that makes me think it must be something off the field.

Yarde has arrived at Sale having slipped down the England pecking order, and he cannot be surprised that Semesa Rokoduguni was called in ahead of him when Elliot Daly pulled out of the Portugal training camp with a knee injury. ‘Roko’ has been wonderful for an inconsistent Bath side – great in attacking prowess, with such pace and power.

Eddie Jones has told Yarde that he wants a try-scorer on England’s right wing, and that he has picked Solomona because his strike rate is far superior. A coach cannot be much more straightforward, so scoring tries for Sale will have to be his main focus in order to get back into international contention.

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