Lewis Moody backs St Albans’ Luke Wallace for New Zealand tests
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One of the biggest gaps Stuart Lancaster has to plug for the first Test in New Zealand is at blindside flanker but former England captain Lewis Moody believes St Albans’ Luke Wallace is the man for the task.
None of the Aviva Premiership final match-ups were going to help Lancaster but while he will be relieved to have his Quins backbone available, a Saints v Saracens final does rob him of one of his chief lieutenants in Tom Wood for the Auckland Test.
Wood has been inspirational in guiding Saints to the Premiership final and during the Six Nations he was at his very best, relishing the donkey work and smashing rucks all day long.
The balance of the back row was also key to England’s progress – Wood, Chris Robshaw and Billy Vunipola, then latterly Ben Morgan, combining to impressive effect.
Wallace has long been on England’s radar however, excelling at blindside alongside Robshaw at Quins and ably deputising at openside when his skipper is away on international duty.
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With Matt Kvesic struggling for form, Wallace would appear to be Robshaw’s closest rival on the openside but Moody – no stranger to swapping between the No.6 and No.7 jersey – feels it’s time the 23-year-old won his first cap alongside his Quins teammate.
“I was surprised he wasn’t drafted into the EPS squad when Kvesic and guys weren’t performing quite as well because I think he’s been steady across the board,” said Moody.
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“I played a lot of club rugby at No.6 and my international rugby as No.7 when Backy [Neil Back] retired so there is no reason he can’t do a job in either.
“It would certainly be a big ask for him going into his first Test match. It is not a massive difference between No.6 and No.7 – at No.6 you tend to do a lot more ball carrying and at No.7 you tend to be in the rucks, winning ball back and making tackles.
“I think Luke deals with both perfectly well. He is a quality rugby player, he is attacking, he is abrasive, he has great ball skills and if given the opportunity it will do him the world of good.”
A potential partner of Robshaw’s in Auckland, Moody sees Wallace as his competitor in the long-term and the former Leicester and Bath back rower believes the England captain needs that pressure to perform against the likes of New Zealand skipper Richie McCaw.
“We need these guys coming through and testing the likes of Chris as competition drives performance. If the guys in that starting line-up are getting too lethargic or complacent because they aren’t being pushed then it drops the performance,” he added.
“One of the things I always found in my playing days that the more people you had coming through and pushing you it was making you perform better and better each week and you never had a chance to rest on your laurels.
“There are certainly some questions to answer there for Stuart but I am fairly sure he knows where he will go.
“Chris is still really learning his international trade so to play against Richie [McCaw], one of the best opensides in the world, is always a good test to see where you are.”
Lewis Moody is a Land Rover ambassador. Land Rover supports grassroots rugby and provides the opportunity for 7000 youngsters to take part in the Land Rover Premiership Rugby Cup.