England must abandon their policy of fielding two full-backs, according to one of their most prolific wings Dan Luger.
And, says Luger, David Strettle deserves the No.11 jersey because he has the X-factor his left-wing rivals lack.
Saracens duo Strettle and Chris Ashton are the only specialist wingers in England’s 33-man squad for the Six Nations but against New Zealand and South Africa this autumn, Harlequins full-back Mike Brown was deployed on the left.
Ashton is nailed on to start on the right but Stuart Lancaster likes having two 15s in his back three – on the summer tour to South Africa, Ben Foden occupied the left wing shirt on two occasions.
Alex Goode excelled this autumn but his shoulder injury means it looks like a straight shoot-out between Brown and fit-again Foden for the full-back slot against Scotland, while the loser could well be moved to the left.
But Luger, who scored 24 tries in 38 England appearances and was in the squad which won the 2003 World Cup, is convinced two out-and-out wide men are required at international level and believes only untimely injuries have stopped Strettle making the shirt his own.
“It’s great to see Stretts back in the squad, he has all the attributes you want from an international winger,” said Luger, who played for England Sevens alongside Strettle.
“He has that X-factor, he can stand defenders up and beat them and that’s what you need your winger to do, to take that one chance when it comes along and he can do that.
“I think Mike Brown is a fantastic full-back and he did very well against New Zealand but he’s not an international winger. On form he should probably be playing at full-back for England but you need more from your winger.
“He’s playing with real confidence at the moment and it’s great to see someone when they’re like that and it’s a fantastic thing for England to have that competition.
“But you have got to have someone who is going to do the right thing when the opportunity comes along and because of that I’d prefer to see two proper wingers on the field.
“And Stretts gives you that. He’s been very unfortunate with injuries, otherwise I’m sure he would have gone on and won a lot more caps.”
Strettle, 29, has won just 12 caps since his debut in 2007 but started four of England’s Six Nations matches last term before losing his place after the summer tour to South Africa.
Forced to sit and watch the autumn internationals, Strettle has hit form at just the right time for Sarries and was given a ringing endorsement for England by director of rugby Mark McCall after a man-of-the-match performance against Sale earlier this month.
Predominantly a right winger, Strettle’s recent form has come on the left and Luger, who regularly interchanged between wings with Ben Cohen, claims the fundamentals are the same on either wing.
“I don’t really think it makes that much of a difference, the position is effectively the same and you are doing the same thing, just on the different side,” he added.
“I’m not surprised to see Stretts performing well on the left because he has all the attributes of a winger, he knows the position inside out so it doesn’t affect him very much.
“It’s great that he’s been improving on his all-round game at Saracens and it’s great that he’s on form because he’s been unlucky in terms of getting his opportunities.”
The Saxons squad boasts four wings in the shape of Tom Biggs, Christian Wade, Ugo Monye and Charlie Sharples but Luger admits it is Tom Varndell, another former Sevens teammate, he would like to see called up.
“Tom is another with that X-factor, that ability to beat people and to score tries,” he said.
“He’s got massive speed and that’s key for a winger so I think he can count himself unlucky not to be in the squad.
“Watching him in Sevens was unbelievable. I’ve seen him skin players for England so many times and it’s about time we all got to see him doing it in XVs.”