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Buck up, Matt Kvesic or lose No.7 fight – Lewis Moody

 Matt KvesicFormer England captain Lewis Moody fears Matt Kvesic’s drop in form means he is losing the race to be the Red Rose openside for the 2015 World Cup campaign.

England’s first choice No.7 in Argentina, with Chris Robshaw rested, Kvesic’s performance against the Pumas gave a glimpse of what a specialist openside could bring to the side. He made 29 tackles when winning his first cap in a 32-3 victory and was no less impressive in the second Test.

But he was been decidedly average for Gloucester, paying the price for playing behind one of the Aviva Premiership’s weakest tight fives.

Moody has been fan of Kvesic, 21, since being on the receiving end in an LV= Cup clash  and last year said the youngster needed to leave Worcester to realise his England potential.

But time is running out. Kvesic played against New Zealand’s No.7 Sam Cane in the 2011 Junior World Championship final and was no less impressive but the Kiwi has now won 14 caps for the All Blacks despite competing with Richie McCaw. Kvesic has just two.

And Moody, who knows all about the advantages of a scavenging seven having played a large portion of his club and international career with Neil Back, believes Robshaw is keeping his England place on merit.

“I’ve championed Matt since I saw him play in the LV= Cup and played against him towards the end of my career,” said Moody. “He’s a solid lump and hard to get rid of and this year I’d have loved him to have done the same.

“But unfortunately he’s not quite performed as well as he’d have liked, and I know he’s only too aware of that.

“He’s a great player with a huge international future further down the line and he’s provided Chris with a great deal of competition.

“But at the minute, Chris is playing there and deserves to be starting, allied with Tom Wood who is just a big old grafter, puts a huge amount of work in around the park. And I think that is a good balance and until there is someone who really demands to be starting, I think they’re the right men for the job.”

Having won the crucial lineout that led to Jonny Wilkinson’s drop goal, Moody was among those in attendance during last weekend’s laboured victory over Australia to celebrate the World Cup success in Sydney, ten years ago.

And while Moody was the first to admit that the performance was far from polished, he believes Stuart Lancaster’s side have finally broken free of the shackles of previous successes.

“It was a poor performance to all intents and purposes if you look at the technical side, but the great England sides of years gone by have always been able win games when playing poorly,” added Moody, speaking at the 2013-14 LV= Cup launch.

“At the Leicester team that I played in, we won a horrendous amount of games that we should have lost, just through sheer doggedness and belief that we were going to win no matter what, regardless of how badly we were playing as a team or as individuals.

“And I like what Stuart has done, he’s not reinvented the wheel, but made this side believe in itself.

“It’s not going back to anything that has been done before or, if it is, it’s learning lessons from it but it’s very much making this England team its own.

“They believe in it and believe in something that is theirs. Walking into the changing room after the game at the weekend and seeing what it now is, it’s very much an extension of this new England.  Something that they buy into and they feel they are creating and I think that’s hugely important. They feel ownership of this England side, the coaches and players, for them it’s now a new era.

“And without ignoring history, in a sense it’s important to forget about it because so much weighed on the teams after the World Cup.

“But now this team and these coaches are completely new – bar Catty who was obviously playing then. It’s a really focused group of individuals.”

GERARD MEAGHER

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