Eddie Jones says “flippin’ tough” Jack Willis is just the man for England’s Nations Cup dust-up with Georgia.
The two countries have not met since a specially arranged scrummage session in Oxford last year descended into a brawl.
Jones insists England are ready for more of the same and believes the “destructive” powers of Willis are perfect for the Twickenham scrap.
“This is going to be no tea party,” warned the Australian. “We remember what happened in Oxford. When the first scrum went down they kept going.
“This is going to be a hard, tough game, a big physical test and we’re prepared for that. We’ve picked a side for that.”
Opportunity knocks finally for Willis, 23, two years after being picked by England only to miss out with a serious knee injury.
The Wasps star earned his spurs by winning twice as many turnovers last season as any other player in English club rugby’s top flight.
That bagged him every individual accolade going, including Premiership player of the season and the Players’ Player award from his peers.
Jones attempted to douse the hype surrounding the uncapped flanker by stressing that club and international rugby are very different.
But he admitted: “Jack deserves the opportunity. He has a good nose for the ball, he gets himself into good positions and he's flippin’ tough.
“You’ve got to have plenty of courage to put your head over the ball – when you consider you’ve got 130kg blokes ready to clean you out – and he does that consistently.
‘In Australian slang we’d call him a knock-about bloke. He just gets on with it. Nothing fazes him too much. He mixes readily with all the different players, listens well, takes praise and criticism equally well.”
Jones is also set to hand a debut off the bench to Bristol’s Max Malins, while Ollie Lawrence and Will Stuart get their first starts.
England: Daly; Joseph, Lawrence, Slade, May; Farrell (capt), Youngs; Genge, George, Stuart, Launchbury, Ewels, Itoje, Willis, B Vunipola.
Replacements: Dunn, M Vunipola, Sinckler, Earl, Curry, Robson, Malins, Marchant.
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