SPORTS COMMENT: Myler is the right choice to play at 10 for England

Stephen Myler is no stranger to swimming against a tide of public perception - the fly-half has been doing it throughout his Saints career.

CLASS ACT - Stephen Myler deserves to be given his chance with England
CLASS ACT - Stephen Myler deserves to be given his chance with England

Whether it be Carlos Spencer, Shane Geraghty or Ryan Lamb, some have always felt there is a preferable, more bedazzling, choice.

And this week, when Myler was named as one of three fly-halves in England’s EPS squad for the upcoming autumn internationals, the gnashing of teeth began once more.

Not in Northampton, of course.

The majority of the rugby public here have grown to alter their opinions on the so-called ‘steady Eddie’.

Indeed, they’ve grown to respect him.

To admire him.

And, most important of all, understand that he’s not a one-trick pony.

On a national level, it seems a different kind of pony is what is still preferred.

Danny Cipriani has been afforded a large dose of sympathy for his England omission.

The Sale Sharks man has taken it with good grace, vowing to fight on in the battle to get ahead of EPS members Myler, George Ford and Owen Farrell.

But his club boss, Steve Diamond, has spoken up on his player’s behalf - as you would expect any director of rugby worth his salt to do.

He says Cipriani would be playing for England if he were at one of the Premiership’s more fashionable clubs.

He points out that Cipriani outshone Myler and Ford in the Champions Cup last weekend.

But those points are open to question.

Myler, Ford and Farrell don’t play for the clubs they do simply because they are lucky.

They are not just another cog in the wheel, having their deficiencies papered over by their powerful team-mates.

They are polished performers, whose bosses respect them as much as Diamond does Cipriani.

And to highlight one weekend of action, rather than look at what someone like Myler has done over a long period of time, would be to contradict the point.

The Saints No.10 has fought off the enigmatic characters such as Lamb and Geraghty because of his consistency.

Because he can be relied upon, more often than not, to produce the goods, and not just sporadic moments of magic.

Last season, he got Saints out of jail on a number of occasions.

The ‘Ice Man’, as he is known by his admiring team-mates, showed his nerveless nature with crucial last-gasp kicks in wins at Wasps and Exeter.

But it wasn’t all about sticking the boot in.

Myler produced a delicious ‘back door’ pass for a crucial Jamie Elliott try in a draw at Bath.

If the likes of Cipriani or Ford had done it, it would have been used as another reason why they should not be ignored.

And Myler went on to produce sublime all-round displays in the Premiership and Amlin Challenge Cup final successes, winning the man of the match award in both.

His opposite number in the Premiership final? Farrell.

In the Challenge Cup showpiece? Ford, who cracked under the pressure as Myler steered Saints to victory.

Pile all the praise on the Saints pack for those wins if you will, they did their job brilliantly.

Or maybe hail eye-catchers like George North and Luther Burrell, who also impressed.

But don’t forget Myler’s role in it all.

A couple of years ago, when Saints’ own fly-half debate was raging, many pointed out the club would never win a major trophy with the former rugby league man at 10.

That myth was dispelled in May.

Yes, Saints added the quality of North, Kahn Fotuali’i and Co, but they also added astute attack coach Alex King, who has worked to develop Myler’s game.

To make him a leader.

He is now that.

Can the same be said of individuals such as Ford and Cipriani? It is questionable.

So if England are looking for a man to shoulder responsibility if Farrell, who appears an indelible first-choice, fails to pass fitness tests ahead of the first November international against New Zealand, the Saints man can step up.

Some say to throw him in at the deep end, having only won one Test cap - from the bench in Argentina - would be naive.

But to not give him a chance to show what he can do would be criminal, as it would have been to continue ignoring Burrell, who blasted on to the England scene with a try on his debut in France and proceeded to score two more in the Six Nations campaign.

If you don’t give a player a go, you never know how good they can be.

Cipriani has had England chances in the past, including emerging from the bench in England’s 36-13 third Test defeat in New Zealand during the summer.

On that occasion, Freddie Burns started in the absence of Farrell and Myler was not even among the replacements, being forced to make do with a few minutes in a midweek win against Crusaders.

Cipriani got the nod in that game. He had his chance - now Myler deserves his.

He has earned it - and he has certainly earned the respect of those who know him best.

As Burrell said at Wednesday’s press session - players and coaches for club and country know what Myler can do.

In fact, Saracens fly-half Charlie Hodgson suggested Myler would be Farrell’s main contender for the England 10 shirt this season.

And he knows a thing or two about that position.

Now, Myler won’t have read those words from Hodgson. The odds are he won’t have read the suggestions that Cipriani would be a better choice, either.

He says he does not listen to praise or criticism, instead preferring to focus on his game.

To worry about what he can affect rather than what he can’t.

It is a policy that has paid off in the past - and it can for England too if faith continues to be shown in Northampton’s No.10.