Oldham’s Kyle Eastmond has a huge international advantage when it comes to his World Cup prospects and that’s his club relationship at Bath with England’s player of the Six Nations Jonathan Joseph, according to midfield rival Manu Tuilagi.
Former rugby league man Eastmond (main picture) was initially named in the England squad for the recent Six Nations before a recurrence of a shoulder injury, plus the form of England’s other midfield candidates such as Joseph and Luther Burrell prevented him from getting a run out.
In his absence, centre pairing Joseph and Burrell made sure to take their chance, starting all five games, with Joseph in particular staking his claim for a starting place come the World Cup, topping the try-scoring charts as well as being nominated as the Player of the Championship.
With just six months remaining between now and the World Cup on home soil, competition for places has never been tougher, with Tuilagi himself aiming to return from his own injury problems before the end of the domestic campaign.
But he admits 25-year-old Eastmond’s opportunity to dove tail with Joseph for Bath in the run-in both in the Premiership and Europe gives him the perfect opportunity to force himself into England head coach Stuart Lancaster’s plans.
“Kyle and Jonathan do have a bit of an advantage in that they play together week in week out,” said Tuilagi, speaking at the Rosslyn Park HSBC National Schools Sevens.
“Coming into the Six Nations, I think everyone thought that Kyle and JJ would have been the two to go but I think Kyle had an injury before.
“But they’ve got more time to play together and they’ll be probably a lot more used to each other a lot more than everyone else.
“With centres, you have to know a partnership on and off the field. If you know them off the field, it’s a lot easier on the field to communicate and to talk to each other.
“It’s not going to be easy to get my place back. It’s a nightmare for the coaches to pick from, but that’s a good thing.”
There are indeed plenty of names in the frame for the centre partnership with Billy Twelvetrees, Kyle Eastmond, Brad Barritt and even rugby league convert Sam Burgess also being looked at Lancaster and the selectors.
Tuilagi has not appeared for England since last summer following a number of injury setbacks.
But despite the competition for places, he insists he will not rush his comeback.
“Guys like Jonathan Joseph and Luther Burrell are playing very well. There are a few guys out as well, Kyle Eastmond, Sam Burgess coming in as well, Billy Twelvetrees. It’s hard. There’s also Brad Barritt as well.
“For me, I’ve got to come back but it’s not a case of going out there extra hard with a point to prove.
“I need to try and not be too eager to try and go mental and injury myself again. I’ve just got to try and play my game.
“It’s still a long time until the World Cup; I’m not worried about my fitness or whether I can handle the work load. I’m definitely confident I can be fit for the World Cup.”
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Main image courtesy of England Rugby via YouTube, with thanks.