‘Kitch’ is a player many a Tigers fan feels hasn’t had the recognition he deserves. He is a supremely athletic second row, not dissimilar to Launchbury in style, who manages to get himself on the shoulder of the ball carrier with impressive regularity. On Friday night against Gloucester, he put in his best ever performance in a Tigers shirt, and with senior lock Geoff Parling set to be out for three months, Kitchener has the chance to turn himself into an integral cog in that impressive Leicester pack. On the basis of Friday’s performance, he is almost there already. With Parling out for the start of the new year, too, a run of good performances could well propel Kitchener into contention for a bench spot come the Six Nations.
England’s injury list on the wing claimed a further casualty yesterday when it was confirmed that Christian Wade would miss the rest of the season with a foot injury. Nowell’s excellent form for the Chiefs, then, has taken on extra significance with the possibility of a meteoric rise to the national team now far from unlikely. After starring in the JWC over the summer, he was propelled into the Saxons squad and EPS set-up at the beginning of the season, and with Monye, Yarde and Foden also set to miss at least the start of the Six Nations, why not give the youngster a go? Lancaster would have to look past the more tried and tested options of Strettle and Sharples, but as neither of them have grabbed their opportunities in the past, there is a strong case for including Nowell ahead of them.
The regularity with which Ford is appearing in this column is forcing us to rethink our early season appraisal that he wouldn’t be ready for England this season. In fact, it is the maturity, game management and composure he has shown over the last two weeks that have been most impressive. A win at Adams Park, where Andy Goode usually reigns supreme with the boot, and eighteen points and a 100% record at home to Exeter, means Ford must seriously be on England’s radar by now. Freddie Burns has not hit the same levels with the same consistency as last season, while England’s attacking malaises with Owen Farrell at the helm were well documented over the autumn. Ford’s ability to get a backline firing has never been in question, and now, having added a previously absent level of maturity to his game, is it time he was given a go at international level? Certainly if he continues to perform as he did against the Chiefs, he will be hard to ignore.
In the battle of Scotland’s past and present kickers, it was the latter who came out on top as Greg Laidlaw managed to score 23 points to Dan Parks’ five helping Edinburgh cruise to a 43-10 victory at Murrayfield on Friday night. Laidlaw was at the heart of everything the Scots produced, distributing quick, clean ball to the likes of Ben Atiga and Nick De Luca who caused Connacht problems all evening. Laidlaw is one of Europe’s premier place kickers and again displayed his flawless technique in securing a perfect 100% in front of goal with five penalties and four conversions. The scrum-half’s continued fine form is critical to Edinburgh’s progression this season as they look to push on from a difficult start to the campaign.
A flawless kicking display from Gareth Davies ensured that the Cardiff Blues managed to come away from Italy with something, following a physical encounter with Treviso. Davies finished, along with his counterpart Mat Berquist, with 16 points, in a match that was dominated by the two fly-halves. As the Blues squandered chances on numerous occasions, it could have easily cost them the game if it were not for his two conversions and four penalties, the last of which came in the final minutes, to draw the sides level. Davies made the most of his opportunity with Rhys Patchell injured and Leigh Halfpenny away on international duty with Wales. He may be some way off the international radar, but after telling contributions in several big games this season (most notably scoring the winning try in that epic win over Toulon), he deserves a mention here.
By Jamie Hosie (@jhosie43) and Alex McLeman (@TodaysPlay)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images