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Alex Lozowski fine-tuning basics for England bid

Alex Lozowksi has declared himself ready to rise to the challenge of retaining his hard-won England place after impressing on the tour of Argentina.

The versatile Saracens fly-half-cum-centre capitalised on the absence of clubmate Owen Farrell to win his first Red Rose caps, featuring strongly in both Tests as an inexperienced squad laid down a marker with a hard-fought 2-0 series victory.

However, with George Ford and Farrell in the box seat and England’s fly-half stocks now swollen by the arrivals of Piers Francis (Northampton) and Toby Flood (Newcastle), Lozowski faces a battle to remain on his upward curve.

“Last season exceeded my expectations and I couldn’t have hoped for more, but it’s now about looking forward and improving,” Lozowski told The Rugby Paper.

“Being in the autumn and Six Nations squads was awesome, but that’s all I was, a squad member, so it was great to be fully involved in Argentina and get some good game time.

“It was an interesting team because while there were a few players with plenty of caps like Danny Care, Dylan Hartley and Chris Robshaw, quite a few of us had no caps, or very few, so it was a good tour to be on.

“I learned a lot and I want to keep it going now and not just be a flash in the pan. I’ve got to keep improving because the competition is fierce and as well as Fordy, Owen and Piers, you’ve got Henry Slade who’s a brilliant player.

“With having such a good pool of players around that 10/12 position, there are going to be some lads who are disappointed, so it’s a case of all of us doing what we can to stay ahead of the game and helping each other out.”

Lozowksi reckons nailing the basics will offer the best chance of longevity in a Red Rose jersey, adding: “Eddie Jones is constantly stressing the need for us to improve our basic skills because when you look at a team like New Zealand, their ability to catch, pass, run straight and execute those skills at high speed sets the benchmark.

“Eddie wants us to exceed that and opportunities to score tries in Test matches are rare, so he sent us back with instructions to keep working on skills – three-on-twos, four-on-threes – which are the difference between winning and losing.”

Lozowski believes he benefitted from working with Aussie skills coach Glen Ella in South America, explaining: “I hope Glen comes in and works with us again because I found him a really good guy to talk to.

“We’ve got class coaches with Saracens and England but just to get that fresh perspective from a Southern Hemisphere guy like him was great.

“He impressed on me that as long as you can stay square and keep running with the ball straight, rather than moving diagonally, you’re going to be able to see defences for longer and pick your kick, run or pass choice better.

“I know that sounds basic but sometimes it’s nice just to have those messages reinforced and being able to pick Glen’s brains was invaluable.”

While Saracens retained the European Cup last season, they suffered the anticlimax of losing their Premiership semi-final at Exeter the following week – a defeat that ensures their focus has been redoubled.

“We were 30 seconds away from a Premiership final so losing at Exeter was tough to take, but we can still look back on last season with lots of pride,” Lozowski said.

“There are things we can improve on while other teams will only get better, so we’ve been working hard in pre-season on evolving our game because the margins in the Premiership are so small.”

Meanwhile, Lozowski concedes it has been hard to live down the small screen notoriety gained from starring alongside superstar Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo as the TV advertising face of an electronic muscle toning device.

He joked: “If it’s good enough for Ronaldo, with his magnificent six-pack, it’s good enough for me!

“I’ll never hear the last of it but my agent got a call asking if I’d do it, so I thought, ‘why not?’.

“What I liked was that before the Champions League final, in which Ronaldo played, they showed my advert, not his. I was pretty pleased with that!”

NEALE HARVEY

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