Harlequins prop Joe Marler deserves a second crack at South Africa after impressing on debut last weekend – according to Quins legend and World Cup winner Will Greenwood.
Fresh from playing a key role in Quins’ march to the Premiership title, the 21-year-old Marler was handed his first start in the opening clash of the Red Rose’s summer tour against the Springboks.
England found themselves very much in the game with the scores level at 6-6 at half-time, but the Springboks proved too strong after the break and emerged 22-17 victors.
But the scrum was far from to blame for the second-half collapse according to Greenwood, who insisted Marler did enough to warrant his re-selection for this Saturday’s second test – which was confirmed yesterday.
“Joe Marler deserved to keep his slot,” said Greenwood, who is a JP Morgan Premiership Rugby 7s Series ambassador.
“Alex Corbisiero will push hard, but I am not surprised that the pack has stayed the same.
“There was some nervous excitement early on with three free-kicks from the first three scrums as Marler and Dylan Hartley were a little over-eager and went in too early.
“They picked up one scrum penalty at one point but the set-piece wasn’t a huge area of concern.
“They held their own well. They maybe just lost out on points if you were to use a boxing analogy. South Africa won the gain line, and if they do that it makes it a very difficult afternoon.
“But Marler was very impressive for his first cap, he’s had a great season and he stepped up well. It’s not an easy place to start but he carried on the form he has shown for a lot of the season with Quins.”
And it was another Quin, Mike Brown, who also caught the eye for Greenwood as he impressed in the starting full-back jersey, pushing Ben Foden out on to the wing as a result.
A broken thumb means the 26-year-old frustratingly will have to miss the rest of the tour, but Greenwood was confident Brown has done enough to present the selectors with a quandary when he returns to fitness.
“I think it was the right selection last week to start with both Ben Foden and Mike Brown,” he added. “Mike is a very good player and did well under the high ball, but I’d have liked to have seen more of his left foot when we were kicking badly.
“If Brown keeps playing that well, and we know Foden’s quality, then it’s very much an option going forward.
“The onus is on the wingers to step up and break into the team.
“If they do that, no one is guaranteed a spot.”
The JP Morgan Premiership Rugby 7s Series kicks off on July 13 at Harlequins, with subsequent rounds at Gloucester, Sale and Bath. Visit jpmorgan7s.com to find out more.