ON-SONG Warriors full-back Chris Pennell insists he will never be happy with his performances until they are being rewarded with international honours.
The resilient former Worcester captain, pictured, is only 25 years old, but he has already battled back from more serious injury setbacks than even the unluckiest of players would suffer in an entire career.
However, each time the Sixways academy graduate has been struck by injury, he has shown remarkable strength of character to come back stronger and reclaim his place in the Worcester starting XV.
In the final game of pre-season before the 2010/11 campaign, Pennell, who was looking forward to leading his side after being named club captain by head coach Richard Hill, suffered an horrific fracture-dislocation to his right ankle.
The recovery from that injury was troublesome with a plate in his ankle impacting on the tendon, leaving three toes permanently curled until further surgery corrected the problem. Although it has been a long road back, including his performances being hampered last term, Pennell is finally returning to his best, which has been evidenced by several eye-catching showings in recent weeks.
Unflappable under the high ball and a reliable last line of defence, as well as inventive and fleet of foot in attack, the Warriors full-back is flourishing into the top-quality Aviva Premiership player his talent suggested.
“I’m happy with a lot of aspects of my game and feel like I’m improving every week,” said Pennell. “There’s obviously still a long way to go and that’s the most exciting thing for me.
“I don’t think I’ll be happy until I have got a rose on my jersey, so I will just keep working hard at the basics of my game and I’m fairly sure I will get a few more opportunities to show what I can do in attack and that excites me.
“I’m confident in what I’m doing on the pitch and I know where I fit into this team. I’m really enjoying playing.”
Rehabilitation from a serious injury is always a tough time for a player, but Pennell says it was the mental side of his absence from the team that hurt most.
He said: “When you have serious injuries it has an impact on you not just physically, but mentally too. The most recent injury I’ve had affected me more mentally than all of the others combined, so it has taken some time to get over it, but I’m feeling confident and enjoying playing regular rugby, which makes a big difference.
“It wasn’t so much worrying about if my body would hold up, because I know it can and I genuinely feel the injuries I’ve sustained have been bad luck rather than my body letting me down.
“It is more little things in play. I’d find myself watching how other guys were taking contact and worrying about them, which then had a knock-on effect on me.
“Touch wood, I’d like to think I’ve finally had my run of bad luck and, with all being well, I can have the next seven, eight, nine years injury-free, playing at the top of my game.”