- New faces can perform in absence of Barritt and Tuilagi, says England backs coach
- “They have been making all the headlines and we expect them to bring that form on to the international stage” – Farrell
Andy Farrell is fully confident that whoever is picked in England’s midfield for the QBE Internationals next month will step up to the heightened intensity of Test match rugby.
Injuries to British and Irish Lions tourists Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi have left Stuart Lancaster shorn of 37 caps' worth of experience – as well as some significant physicality and defensive cohesion – for the matches against Australia, Argentina and New Zealand.
With uncapped trio Luther Burrell, Joel Tomkins and Henry Trinder called up on Wednesday to join Billy Twelvetrees and Kyle Eastmond in an extended 34-man squad, the existing centre options have a largely raw feel to them.
However, Farrell insisted that each man deserved their place on the basis of strong domestic form.
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“First and foremost the players coming in have been selected for what they can bring the England team,” he explained. “They have been top performers in the Premiership this year, making all the headlines and we expect them to bring that form on to the international stage.
“The opportunity for someone like Billy Twelvetrees is something that he has been waiting for. In his first Test against Scotland he performed very well and has been patient to get another crack of the whip.
“There is some great competition in the centres with Luther, Joel and Henry all playing well – that’s what brings out the best in people. If you know you are going into an international game with that competition behind you, it’s going to help you to perform.
“In those positions there has to be leadership as well – they’ve all shown it at club level, now it’s time to see whether they’ve got it at international level.
“They wouldn’t get selected if we didn’t think they could step up. Test match football is a bit different – it’s a pressure-cooker environment and things are highlighted a little bit more. You have to give lads a chance and trust them to go out and get the job done.”
Turning his attention to Tomkins, who has followed Farrell’s own move from Super League outfit Wigan Warriors, the England backs coach was extremely complimentary.
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Since finalising his switch at the start of last season, the 26-year-old has only started 26 matches for Saracens. Even so, he has made a big impact in that time, consistently marking brawny performances with prolific offloading and very sturdy defence.
And though Farrell was coy on whether he would have liked to involve Tomkins’ exceptionally talented brother Sam – still plying his trade in league – he was certain that Joel would be ready to represent England in his new code.
“Obviously 26 games is a short time but he has shown a thirst to get to this stage. International football was a big driver of his and towards the back-end of last year and the start of this year, his performances have warranted the call-up.
“Credit has to go to Saracens for throwing Joel in last year and giving him as much game time as they possibly can. He learned from the mistakes you have to make in a new sport very quickly and all credit to him for putting the hard work in to get here in such a short space of time.
“I don’t think any club or country would go for a guy that didn't think he could make the switch in the first place. Pedigree and big-game performances are why people go for those players anyway. Joel has played in plenty of those.”