Steve Borthwick is confident Manu Tuilagi and Ollie Lawrence could form a successful midfield partnership as England assess their centre permutations ahead of next month’s World Cup in France.
Although there are plenty of similarities in their style of play – both are powerful ball carriers, who prefer the direct route – Borthwick believes they can combine to field a successful partnership.
That means it’s possible that the duo could line up in midfield alongside England’s captain and fly-half Owen Farrell when they take on Argentina in their World Cup opener on September 9 in Marseille.
Lawrence in fine form
Lawrence came into the World Cup training camp after an impressive Six Nations in which he took over the hard-running role which Tuilagi usually perfects for England in the Test arena.
“I think they can play together – Manu at 12 and Ollie at 13,” Borthwick said.
“That was Ollie’s first proper Six Nations, as in being involved every week. He did really well before unfortunately having to go off in the France game with a hamstring injury.
“Ollie brings carry but he’s also a very good defender. He rates exceptionally high as a defender on all the systems we use to analyse performances across the Premiership.
“We know Manu’s strengths and experience and I think they can play together in a specific way.”
Joe Marchant and Elliot Daly are the other midfield options in the 33-man World Cup squad which Borthwick named on on Monday and both those players are comfortable in the number 13 jersey.
Apart from fly-half, Farrell can also play at inside centre with George Ford and Marcus Smith also in the squad as the other fly-half options.
Borthwick will announce his team on Thursday for their second clash against Wales at Twickenham after Warren Gatland’s side sealed a 20-9 victory in their first encounter in Cardiff last weekend.
Can’t afford another loss
After that defeat, England are already in must-win territory with the Summer Nations Series reaching its halfway stage this weekend.
Wing Jonny May, centre Guy Porter and lock Jonny Hill – who all missed out on England’s World Cup squad selection – have been retained as injury cover ahead of the team announcement.