England second-row Courtney Lawes believes that impressive youngster Maro Itoje can play at flanker or lock equally comfortably.
With Chris Robshaw out of England’s Six Nations opener against France, and the entire competition, England will need a physical presence at the side of the scrum to replace the former captain.
The 54-Test cap veteran Lawes believes Itoje is dynamic enough to fill the void if called upon.
“Maro is just a very good rugby player. The difference between five and six in this day and age isn’t a huge one. He can certainly player either/or,” Lawes told reporters.
“Whether he plays in the second row or at six, he’ll have an impact in the game. He’s very good over the ball.
“As a line-out caller to have an option like him alongside two second rows must be what you want.”
Lawes reflected on his own experiences from being moved from the crux of the scrum to the side, stating that the game has changed and all second-rowers should be versatile enough to play both flank and lock.
“There are lots of good back rows now so I tend to stick to the second row,” he said.
“I have played six for Northampton quite a few times last season and briefly at the end of one game in the autumn. You get the rangy number sixes now who are good line-out forwards.
“Rugby keeps changing and the players keep getting better and better, and it’s great for the game, great for the public to watch.
“Everyone’s got to be athletic now, everyone’s got to be able to do the basics very well and do every job.”