(Photo: Getty Images)
By Neale Harvey
Ace groundhog Julian Salvi believes England are missing a trick by constantly overlooking the talents of in-form Wasps back rower Guy Thompson.
England’s lack of a genuine openside has come under intense scrutiny in wake of their defeat by Scotland at Murrayfield, during which their flankers were comprehensively out-hustled by counterparts Hamish Watson and John Barclay.
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With a World Cup looming, Exeter star Salvi told The Rugby Paper: “Coaches don’t like being told what to do, but given the way I play, my focus would always be on having a genuine No.7 in the side – a grafter who gets over the ball and gets the job done.
“It’s a question of balance and Scotland showed what can be achieved, but for whatever reason, England have been slow to do it. I guess the question is do you want to do it now, before a World Cup, or wait a bit longer and go with what you have?
“I think there’s enough talent in England to be implementing that now and Sam Underhill, in terms of his hitting power and staying strong over the ball, is one who can put collisions in that can be quite effective while getting over the ball as well.
“Jack Willis at Wasps also looks like a nice No.7 prospect, but one I think they should look at who’s never had a chance is his Wasps colleague Guy Thompson.
“He’s a bit older but he’s very good in the carry, makes good metres and also has that great ability over the ball to slow the opposition down. It’s only my perspective, but that’s the kind of openside England need to compete against the best.”
Meanwhile, former Brumbies, Bath and Leicester star Salvi, 32, is mulling contract options as he aims to extend his Premiership stay into a tenth season.
Salvi, who is venturing into property development with Exeter teammate Moray Low, explained: “I’m contracted at Exeter until the end of this season so we’re just working through that, but I’m planning to play for another two or three years.
“In the meantime, it’s important to look at the transition side of things so Moray and I have set up a little property project, Tomahawk Homes, and we’ve got a site in Exeter where we’re building three houses and we’ll be launching that next week.
“I haven’t made a decision on where I’ll be playing yet – it could be a ten-minute drive away or two hours – but it’s important to look at the future.”
Salvi concedes fear is hampering Exeter’s chances of retaining their Premiership title.
He added: “It’s been a new experience for guys who haven’t carried the mantle of being current champions before and there’s an element of fear in that; you become the hunted rather than the hunter and that can be hard for them at times.
“To some extent it’s down to people like me and Thomas Waldrom to lead by example because we’ve been around these situations and know what it takes to defend a title. It’s a case of passing on a bit of calm to the squad and removing the fear.
“We haven’t been firing as we’d have liked but we’re still a good side and, come the business end, we’ll be giving it our best shot for another title.”