Jonathan Joseph may well pose the biggest challenge to Henry Slade’s custodianship of England’s 13 shirt, but former Harlequins centre George Lowe feels Joe Marchant is playing as well as Joseph ever has in the Premiership.
Marchant’s consistent form over the course of the season has been one of the highlights for a side transformed by the arrival of Paul Gustard.
And with the Rugby World Cup looming over the Premiership run-in, Lowe rates his former teammate as one of the best centres in the Premiership.
Asked if the uncapped Marchant deserves to be given a shot by England head coach Eddie Jones, Lowe told TRP: “I would have given him a taste of senior international rugby by now. He’s got all the right attributes. He’s dealing with an injury now which is a real shame because he’s played well this year.
“I said it ages ago when he was coming through, he’s got the talent and he seems to be applying it now. I would have thought, personally, by now they would have capped him.
“There are some other pretty good centres around but I do think he’s up there with the top centres in the country now.
“Jonathan Joseph is now back, so it will be interesting to see how his form goes. But I would say Joe is playing as good this year as Jonathan Joseph has ever played. I would give him a shot if I was in an England selection meeting but it’s up to them.”
Marchant has hit double figures for his try tally this season and was marked by Jones as a player who would have been a part of England’s tour of Argentina two years ago, only to be denied his senior debut by an injury.
Lowe knows that injuries don’t last forever having recovered from a severe neck injury in 2013 to go on and pick up a winners’ medal in the LV Cup final a year later and starting in the Challenge Cup final against Montpellier in 2016.
A Premiership winner with play-off chasing Quins in 2012, Lowe argues that while his attacking exploits haven’t gone unnoticed in most circles, the strides made by Marchant in defence shouldn’t either.
“The biggest improvement in his game has been defence this year. He has always had that x-factor but he just needed to show that consistency and keep working on it.
“If he keeps going on like he is he can’t be ignored; he’s scoring tries, making line breaks and making a lot of tackles, so I don’t see what else he can do.”
History in Eddie Jones’ selection suggest Henry Slade and Jonathan Joseph hold the highest standing in the Australian’s thoughts. But the emergence of Marchant and in-form Northampton Saints centre Rory Hutchinson risk being prised away from England’s clutches by other Japan-bound nations, with Wales able to fulfil Marchant’s World Cup dream and Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend keeping a very close eye on Hutchinson.
In retirement, Lowe has been able to sit back and enjoy watching rugby when not part-taking in the throes of a pulse-raising fitness session at his recently-opened studio, Milo and the Bull, in south-west London.
Still in touch with a number of his former Quins pals, the one-club man caught up with Conor O’Shea in Rome during the Six Nations.
“I was in Rome for the Italy versus France game and I saw Conor.
“I watched the France game and they threw it away, they could have easily won that and they really should have won that game. They had all the territory and all the possession.
“He’s going right down to the foundations and aiming to rebuild the entire structure of Italian rugby, which I think is a tough job but it seems like it’s working.
“Treviso are doing really well and he’s been working on making domestic rugby in Italy much more competitive. If you have better club sides obviously the national side will benefit.”
O’Shea’s future with the FIR after the World Cup appears fraught with uncertainty, with the news that the governing body has been in touch with Cheetahs head coach Franco Smith and made an offer for the South African to join the Azzurri set-up in some capacity.
“It’s always going to be tough being Italy coach,” Lowe said, “but they beat South Africa not so long ago and it was the first time they had beaten a southern hemisphere team.
“With Conor it’s been a more long-term approach that he has gone for and I think that’s what they needed. If you look at the national team in three or five years’ time they will have benefitted massively.
“They should offer it (a new contract) to him, but I’m sure Conor has got a few offers available to him.”
Milo and the Bull combines the George Lowe and Richie Steele’s knowledge and experience of sport at the top level, with the latest indoor rowing technology, and some of London’s top coaches. With classes ranging from strength and cardio combination circuits, through to pilates and yoga, the studio offers a holistic approach to fitness, and welcomes all abilities. Instagram: @miloandthebull
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