Joe Marchant can provide England X-factor despite missing out on original squad

It took less than 24 hours for agony to turn into ecstasy for Joe Marchant this week, but he'll care little for the exact details of how his latest England call-up came to be.

Initially left out of Eddie Jones' 34-man autumn squad on Monday despite featuring in last month's extended training camp, the Harlequins danger man was hastily summoned back as injury cover on Tuesday.

That was after a scan revealed Bath 's Anthony Watson had ruptured his ACL during Sunday's disastrous 71-17 defeat to Saracens, whose hooker, Jamie George, will also replace the injured Luke Cowan-Dickie.

Marchant wasn't mentioned among the many headlines concerning England's dropped senior stars. Nor can he, at 25, be classified as an up-and-comer who's simply content to wait for his time in the sun with the national team.

And yet it would have been fair to suggest Marchant was one of the most unfortunate—arguably the most—not to have been included in Jones' original 34-man selection.

There are many who will be confident his time is approaching, and although this latest chance didn't materialise without a hitch, it could nonetheless be the beginning of something big for the Red Rose.

There's a temptation to doubt one's self when it comes to assessing Harlequins, the incumbent Premiership champions whose style of play proved all but irrepressible in the second half of last season.

Marchant was a key part of that title run and scored nine tries in 18 starts en route to the final against Exeter Chiefs, including a brace of scores in their now-famous semi-final comeback against Bristol Bears.

He already has two in four appearances for the club so far this season, scores that proved decisive in narrow victories over Newcastle Falcons and Worcester Warriors.

The stats speak for themselves, too, given only four Premiership players have recorded more than his five clean breaks this term, while his tally of 11 beaten defenders puts him not far off the league's leaders in that field.

The aforementioned doubt relates to whether Quins' key men can replicate their club feats for England, with fears their success at The Stoop is thanks to a licence to thrill that won't be afforded to them by Jones.

Do you think Joe Marchant should start for England against Tonga on November 6? Let us know in the comments section.

But just as Marcus Smith and Alex Dombrandt will have chances to impress this autumn, it would be an insult if the slightly more senior Marchant missed his opportunity to star during the international season.

Desire shouldn't be a concern for selectors, at least, after Marchant identified a senior role for England as one of his top priorities just days after helping Quins end their nine-year wait for a Premiership crown.

"The goal since I've been a little kid has been to start for England," he told BBC Sport.

The fact he's replaced Watson in the squad suggests Jones envisions a Test future on the wing for Marchant, having made two of his last Test three appearances as a substitute out wide.

But amid the current debate over England's half-backs and who should make up the midfield mixture, his more naturalised role of centre should be where the Winchester native stands his best chance of thriving.

Clive Woodward recently called for England to drop captain Owen Farrell altogether rather than turn him back into a makeshift centre if Smith is promoted as the new starting fly-half.

The 2003 Rugby World Cup -winner would rather see a more organic midfield partnership featuring someone like Manu Tuilagi at No. 12, and the Sale Sharks star could provide the perfect foil for Marchant to do his best work.

There's also the notion that if Smith is accepted as England's 10 of the future, it wouldn't hurt to have Marchant among the backs as a familiar face to provide some added comfort.

Quins' line-buster scored his only Test try to date against Italy in his sole England start back in September 2019.

That's without accounting for the competition on England's wings as the likes of Jonny May, Max Malins and Newcastle speedster Adam Radwan battle it out for only two spaces out wide.

Some will say Marchant didn't do enough in his previous chances to impress Jones, having first been called up for England in August 2016 before making his debut almost exactly three years later.

But as the player approaches his prime years, it appears now could be the time for one of England's most rounded back-line options to excel, and just in time as the puzzle pieces are put in place ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

A lot can change in two years, a fact to which Marchant will be keenly aware given Harlequins' prospects of a league title looked dim prior to last season's fairytale win.

The goal now will be to ensure that triumph injected new life into his England prospects, rather than serve as the highlight of a career that looks primed for international plaudits in the years to come.

Jones' existing loyalties will prove critical in the autumn fixtures against Tonga, Australia and South Africa, which will test just how far the coach is willing to go in his renovation project.

Source: Read Full Article