Ollie Phillips: Opportunity knocks louder for some England players against Samoa than others

Ollie Phillips
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Mike Brown needs a big performance to remind people how good he is (Source: Getty)

Opportunity knocks for a host of England players against Samoa on Saturday but perhaps the need to impress is more immediate for five of Eddie Jones’s nine changes – and for different reasons.

Looking through the prism of the 2019 World Cup, the majority of positions in the pack appear to have been decided and tomorrow is a great chance for Bath second row Charlie Ewels to gain international experience.

But come the World Cup, do I think the 22-year-old will be picked in the squad ahead of fellow locks Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Maro Itoje and George Kruis? No, I don’t.

It’s different, however, for Leicester’s Ellis Genge, who I believe could really stake a claim to start over Mako Vunipola at loosehead prop if he can produce a top-class performance. Vunipola has possession of the jersey, but Genge has a chance.

In the backs, I imagine Danny Care will be bitterly disappointed that he doesn’t regularly start Test matches for England. He is a world-class player and every time he comes off the bench he has an impact.

It could be argued that it’s smart management from Jones that Care has that level of influence, which is what you want from your replacements. But from Care’s perspective, there is a danger of getting typecast and never starting. That’s frustrating for a player.

The 30-year-old turned the game against Australia with his cameo appearance, which demonstrated his speed of thought and deft touch with the boot, and he will be desperate to impress against the Pacific Islanders.

Alex Lozowski, meanwhile, is set to begin proceedings at inside centre. I was speaking with him prior to the Australia match and he was saying how deflated he was to have been omitted, albeit he understood the reasons why.

Given the competition of Owen Farrell, Jonathan Joseph, Henry Slade, Manu Tuilagi and Ben Te’o – the latter two are currently sidelined with injury – at centre, he might not get too many more chances to impress. You never know, this might be his last

Lozowski has been excellent for Saracens; he has a great ability to read the game, can pass off both hands, is an excellent kicker and has a really good outside arc. But club form only takes you so far. It puts you in the shop window but when international opportunities come, especially with the level of competition he faces, you cannot afford to be off your game.

The same applies to Henry Slade. He failed to set the world alight against Argentina and, as a consequence, needs to go out there and showcase the talent he shows week in, week out for defending Premiership champions Exeter.

The final player for which Saturday is particularly crucial is full-back Mike Brown. The 32-year-old is a class act but England showed last week with the combination of Elliot Daly, Jonny May and Anthony Watson in a back three that they have real finishing ability and can cope without Brown.

While he is not a natural finisher and does not possess blistering pace, Brown is a really gritty opponent and he needs a commanding performance against Samoa to remind people just how good he is.

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