England’s young guns took to the field in San Juan on Saturday night and emerged victories against a vastly more experienced Pumas side. Eddie Jones gave test debuts to eleven players and their performances ranged from average to extraordinary.
One debutante was Sale Sharks 18 year-old back-rower Tom Curry. I found myself astounded as he is only two months older than myself. I have even seen Curry play at last summers Singha 7’s finals at the Ricoh Arena. Curry played really well at #7 and can only improve as he is still in his formative years as a professional player. Curry showed in the victory over the Baabaas that he was good at getting over the ball and disrupting the opposition at the ruck. This was also evident in the victory in San Juan. Eddie Jones hasn’t had a true openside since taking charge of England. Tom Curry could be the long term option at this position as it looks like the door to the international scene has been closed to Matt Kvesic.
England’s forward pack featured a lot of very good ball carriers; the likes of Joe Launchbury and Nathan Hughes have shown this at an international level before, but the likes of Ellis Genge, Mark Wilson and Tom Curry got the chance to show this on Saturday. Genge powered through Argentine defenders and allowed players to quickly pick-and-go to break the gain line. Mark Wilson had several powerful runs in the midfield, even after he looked shattered following the 70 minute mark. Curry made several good runs and, again, he can only improve and when he puts on a bit of timber his ball carrying will gradually improve.
I don’t think that the centre partnership of Lozowski and Henry Slade was largely unimpressive. Yes, Slade produced a good moment with a kick through which lead to Jonny May’s try. It just seemed that they were there largely as defenders. In addition to this I see them as fly-halves, not as centres. The issue for them is that they are second choice at their clubs. Slade is held back by Steenson’s dominance at fly-half for Exeter and whilst Lozowski has regularly played for Sarries this season, he’s always going to be second fiddle to Owen Farrell.
It was also good to see someone new at tighthead. Dan Cole at the age of 30 will probably bow out after the 2019 world cup so it’s good to see the future of Englands front row whilst Cole is in New Zealand with the Lions. The future of tighthead is firmly in the grasp of Kyle Sinckler, but whilst Sinckler is also with the Lions, becoming a long-term understudy is on the cards. Harry Williams was on show today and the way to describe him is unconventional. He’s larger than most modern props but he is an extremely good scrummager. If he was to be an impact player to frustrate an opposition at the scrum it would suit him very well.
George Ford was even kicking well, which when you consider some of his kicking this season is brilliant. The pressure has been taken off him as there is no Owen Farrell breathing down his neck, maybe playing tricks on him in the back of his head. The only competition that Ford has is from Piers Francis the new cap who is moving to Northampton for the start of next season.
Finally, Denny Solomona. One of the most controversial rugby union players around at the moment following his cross from rugby league to rugby union. He had a bit of a shocker after he first came on, missing two vital tackles that could have directly preventing tries. But when he got the ball in hand for the first he bumped off an Argentine and dashed under the post. A magnificent moment that will be the highlight of this tour and one of the highlights of Solomona’s career. All he has to do is work on defence and then Solomona will have a true future in rugby union.