Former England World Cup winner Will Greenwood believes that the time is right for England to try something new in the centres, with Jonathan Joseph set to make for his first start for his country against South Africa on Saturday in Johannesburg. Speaking at the launch J.P. Morgan Premiership Rugby 7s, Greenwood reveals that it was in the same event that Joseph first caught his eye, highlighting one of the many attractions in the annual competition – young talent.
“For the fans it’s more aesthetically pleasing – not so many props and scrums. Faster pace, short and sharp with burgers, music and pints, it’s just a great way to spend a Friday night and everyone benefits from it, especially the young talent. We’ve seen the likes of Jonathan Joseph benefit immensely from the experience.”
“I saw Ross Chisholm of Harlequins produce almost a carbon copy of his wonder try against Gloucester in the the 7s last year. There is quality throughout each side.”
Joseph enjoyed a brief cameo in Durban but has done enough in his last two appearances for people to demand he should be included from the start, an opinion that Greenwood supports given that Joseph currently possesses that pace England are missing in midfield.
“He came on in Durban and ran a lovely little line off Toby Flood. There’s two ways of looking at his three minutes – there can either be a clamour because of that last try, or you’re realistic and think that last try was after the hooter when the game was won. You can’t go overboard because guys like Ruan Pienaar who slipped off Joseph might have made a bit more of an effort if it was 3-3 going into the final moments.”
“Tuilagi put in a triple tackle on Saturday, including that try-saver on Spies, plus he ran over a couple of people from the back of the lineout, so he has to start. You have to have a 13 with an outside break, which Tuilagi has, but it’s more physical. Long-term I see him ending up at 12, with England using him either as a decoy or first-phase, because Joseph has that fantastic pace in his outside break that England need. Tuilagi can get you round the corner but it’s about what you do after it. For the next Test, Farrell has to be on the bench, because he covers 10-12-13. But what I would have given to have had his mental toughness, which is remarkable for his age. He will definitely come again.”
With Lancaster having so many options at his disposal, Greenwood feels that right combination has been selected for the 2nd Test. “It’s a fascinating selection for Saturday. I’d have gone with Flood at 10 and then Tuilagi and Joseph. I’ve played a lot of Test match rugby and the quandary is that as a head coach you’ve got so many options. There’s only 30 odd games before 2015, which isn’t a lot of time, but you want to win in South Africa. To win down there would be huge psychologically. If you even take one out of the three, or win this one and take it to a decider, it gives you the confidence to go out and perform.”
“I thought they showed plenty of form and guts in that 1st Test but were bullied a bit, but when you consider the All Blacks victory on tour there in ’96 and the Lions winning in ’97, you understand the aura around those victories because it’s such a difficult place to go. I’d now give England more chance of winning the 3rd Test, much like the Lions in ’09, because Heyneke Meyer might look to move things around for the final test if the series is already won.”
If anything, the first round of Summer Tour matches proved that apart from Scotland, travelling down to play the SANZAR nations is as tough as ever, regardless of their minimal preparation time. “It’s so hard to go down there and win. I thought Ireland played well in the first-half against New Zealand and they found themselves 23-3 down at half time. When you’re 19 stone and 6ft 5 like Julian Savea, rugby’s an easy game. Ireland, Wales and England will all feel like they’ve missed a big chance losing that 1st Test but the tours aren’t over yet.”
by Ben Coles
The J.P. Morgan Premiership Rugby 7s Series kicks off on 13 July at Harlequins, with rounds at Sale Sharks and Gloucester Rugby, and the final at Bath Rugby. Visit: www.jpmorgan7s.com to find out more.