What are England's options at tight-head?
February 18, 2014
Davey Wilson is favourite to replace Dan Cole © Getty Images
"It's probably the one area where we've got least depth" was England coach Stuart Lancaster's assessment of the options available to replace the crocked Dan Cole ahead of Saturday's Test against Ireland. Cole has been England's first choice tight-head for the past four years and his injury is a seismic blow to the strength of their pack and prospects. ESPN looks at the options available to Lancaster at tight-head.
Bath's Wilson is likely to start against Ireland on Saturday and is clearly the next cab off the rank. He started against Argentina during the November Tests as Lancaster sought to give others game time at tight-head and will face Cian Healy on Saturday. He's more an old-fashioned prop than the gainline breaking ones we see littering the domestic scene these days but he has excelled with the new scrum laws and if you want a rock to keep the right-hand side of the scrum up, there are few better than the gnarly tight-head.
Thomas will be at Bath next term vying with Wilson for the starting No.3 spot- a situation Lancaster probably wishes did not exist. But at the age of 22, he already has 52 Aviva Premiership appearances to his name. He made his England debut on the summer tour of Argentina and scrum coach Graham Rowntree has previously given Thomas glowing reviews. He now needs to turn potential into ability and is likely to be on the bench come Saturday.
Kieran Brookes is making all the right noises at Newcastle © Getty Images
Despite props commonly hitting their peak around the age of 30, Wilson's level of performance is way beyond his tender years. At 19, Wilson is running out in the Premiership on a frequent basis for Newcastle and even turned out for the England Saxons against Scotland earlier in February. He was the cornerstone of the Junior World Championship-winning side and is likely to be one for the future but is an exciting prospect nonetheless.
He's already had a bash at playing at the Tigers but things didn't quite work out for Newcastle prop Brookes as he had Cole, Martin Castrogiovanni and Lugovi'i Mulipola in front of him in the pecking order. Ahead of the current season, he returned to Newcastle and has been hugely impressive this term. Next season the Falcons will have a similar problem to Bath - trying to keep two international-aspiring tight-heads happy.
Paul Doran Jones
He's never quite settled following spells at Nottingham, Gloucester, Northampton Saints and now Harlequins but he has bags of ability. With six England caps to his name, Doran Jones has been on the international radar in the past but is probably below the above four when it comes to his Test prospects. He was signed by Harlequins as a replacement for James Johnston but has had to share his first-team duties with Will Collier. Doran Jones has also suffered from a neck injury this season.
Others who warrant a mention
Talk of Doran-Jones brings us nicely onto the aforementioned Collier. He was included in England's 2014 Saxons squad and has earned his crust at Under-20 level. He is currently out injured but has played 47 times for Harlequins despite being aged 22 which is a huge endorsement of his ability.
When the Saxons were hit by their raft of injuries in the midst of their games earlier this year, the coaching staff turned to Northampton's Mercey to replace the crocked Collier. Aged 26, his Test prospects are quickly escaping him but he has proved to be a solid Premiership player. He played for the Saxons when Lancaster was at the helm.
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Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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