Palmer earns high praise
February 7, 2011
Palmer was a towering presence for England during their Six Nations victory over Wales © Getty Images
England lock Tom Palmer has been hailed as the complete modern day forward following his impressive showing in his side's opening Six Nations victory over Wales.
The 31-year-old second row was a towering presence during the 26-19 victory at the Millennium Stadium on Friday night and forwards coach John Wells has backed him to play a key role in England's latest assault on the Rugby World Cup crown later in the year.
"He is near enough the complete forward for the modern game," Wells said ahead of England's clash with Italy at Twickenham on Saturday. "We are looking to develop an all-round game and not just put together a pack of forwards that is comfortable going through the middle. We want to put tempo on the ball and try to get it into the wider spaces.
"We need forwards of that mobility to play the game we want and Tom falls into that category. Courtney Lawes has also come through the ranks and both those guys bring something different in terms of their ball-carrying and ability in the wide channels. All that produces an extra threat to the opposition. We pose significant threats in all areas of the pitch that we can attack in a variety of ways."
Palmer, who was not in England's plans when he moved to Stade Francais two years ago, believes his time in Paris has improved him markedly as a player. His lineout work is authoritative but his biggest strides have been taken in the loose, where he is now a dominant ball-carrier and committed defender. A decade after making his international debut, Palmer has finally established himself as an influential figure in the England second row and central to their gameplan.
"Tom Palmer was a good player when he first came onto the scene (in 2001) but like all good players you can have significant holes in your game," Wells said. "Over a period of time and through experiences he has built on what he can do well and worked hard on the things he was not so good at."
Wells warned England will have to be prepared to 'win ugly' against the Azzurri and he is confident they have the physicality to do so, having been taught a lesson in that department by South Africa in the autumn.
England assistant coaches Graham Rowntree and John Wells offer their thoughts on the Italy clash
"We have got to try to improve our ability to withstand the kind of battering we took at times against South Africa," Wells said. "Italy are an extremely dogmatic team, very difficult to break down.
"It is extremely difficult to get anything going because of the way they defend and they are a very difficult team to break down. They are a very good set-piece side. Some of these games are about winning ugly. If we beat Italy we will probably have to dog it out and find a way to get some points at times during the game."
London Irish prop Alex Corbisiero and Gloucester wing James Simpson-Daniel have been added to the England squad following injuries to Tim Payne (sternum) and Nick Abendanon (toe).
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