He is the son of Scotland and a hero in St Lucia, but Marland Yarde perhaps holds the key to England’s 2015 World Cup hopes.
His really is a very modern rugby tale.
Aged just nine, Marland moved to England with his parents – the wonderfully named Scotland Yarde and his wife, Marina – after a childhood in St Lucia.
He was a natural sportsman, on the books of QPR and seemingly with a choice between all manner of professions.
Yet the knowledge that rugby would allow him to further his education swayed his decision, and how Stuart Lancaster is glad it did for it has allowed him to pick an exhilarating talent – perhaps the natural finisher England have been desperate to find to fill the No.11 shirt.
Time will tell if that is the case, but Yarde has been quietly learning from friends in other sports to see how they deal with disappointments. His two closest friends from Whitgift School in Croydon have both enjoyed notable careers; Steven Caulker made his debut for England’s football team last November before moving to Cardiff City from Tottenham for around €9.5m, while Lawrence Okoye competed in last summer’s Olympics in the discus and is now an American Footballer with the San Francisco 49ers.
On the eve of his first England game at Twickenham, Yarde feels secure enough to put his name alongside theirs. And despite the fact that this will be just his second full cap – he scored twice on his debut, against Argentina in Buenos Aires in June after starring against the Barbarians – he is already looking to the future and wants to inspire a generation of St Lucians to choose rugby over cricket.
It has been an interesting journey already and few would bet against the fact that it will take in the World Cup in under two years’ time.
“It is massively humbling to be picked,” smiles the 21-year-old. “This time last year I was at Twickenham to watch England take on South Africa and it really drove me on to be in this position.
“I have worked really hard over the last year, into pre-season and this season as well. I am really pleased with how I have been playing but now my club form is out of the way and it’s about how I do for England.”
But Yarde knows his back-story is in many ways more interesting than where he is now, and it largely comes down to a tipping point he reached at the tender age of 14. “I had played a few games in the QPR Academy and I had to make a choice,” he said. “My Mum was pressurising me back then, saying ‘don’t be a jack of all trades’.
“She wanted me to choose, I chose rugby and I am very glad I did. The reason was that it was an opportunity for me to extend and further my education as I got a scholarship to Whitgift.
“That was a big incentive as you know that in professional sport there is no guarantee you will make it.
“My Mum wouldn’t take no for an answer when it came to education!”
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