Jonathan Joseph eager to make an impression as England face Georgia
Jonathan Joseph will relish hunting for the ball against Georgia after being given a roaming role for England’s Autumn Nations Cup opener at Twickenham on Saturday.
Joseph will start on the wing for only the second time after Eddie Jones opted for the power of Ollie Lawrence at outside centre, the position usually filled by Bath’s 51-cap veteran.
Impressed by an “absolutely electric performance” on the left wing against Ireland in March, Jones has given Joseph the freedom of Twickenham in an echo of a similar brief previously handed to the more direct Jack Nowell.
“Eddie has told me that I have free rein to go where I want, but won’t be picking and going like Jack does, that’s for sure,” Joseph said.
“But I’ll look to get into second and third receiver positions where possible so that I can get my hands on the ball a bit earlier. I want to execute for the boys outside me.
“I’m looking forward to it because I’ve got free licence to do what I want, so hopefully I’ll get some good opportunities out there to add to the team.
“I love playing on the wing. With England and the style we play, you get more good ball on the wing.
“We like to kick the ball a bit and pressurise teams that way which in turn gives you counter attack opportunities.”
“Electric on the ball” are the words Joseph used to describe Lawrence, the recently turned 21-year-old whose physical presence could fill the void left by Manu Tuilagi’s Achilles injury.
Tuilagi will miss the entire autumn and 2021 Six Nations and starting with his second cap against Georgia having debuted off the bench in Rome a fortnight ago, Lawrence has the stage to prove England posses ball carrying depth in the midfield.
“Ollie’s really grown over the last few weeks but he’s still learning the game. He’s got a really good mindset, asking questions of very experienced senior players,” attack coach Simon Amor said.
“He has the capacity to hit really good running lines and that creates really good opportunities. He’s just starting his journey so it’s exciting to see where he can go.”
Georgia are expected to be over-run at Twickenham in a mismatch between World Cup runners up and the game’s 12th ranked team, but they will field a hard-nosed pack capable of causing problems.
“We know they’re a physical team. It’s important that first and foremost we get our dominance up front,” Amor said.
“That’s really important in every Test match, but especially against a very strong Georgian pack that pride themselves so much around their scrum, maul and in the contact area. It’s potentially the toughest pack in world rugby.
“Our forwards will set the tone and it starts there. It’s about being very, very smart about how we play the game. We have to earn the opportunity to play wide.
“Georgia do have some good threats that we have to be mindful of. They have good couple of kickers in their 10 and their 15. Their centres are physical and their nine is talented.
“Eddie’s talked an awful lot about the greatest team the world has ever seen and being on that journey we want to win the Autumn Nations Cup.”