England winger David Strettle has backed rookie scrum-half Richard Wigglesworth to shine in Paris on Saturday.
Wigglesworth has only a few minutes of international experience under his belt but has been preferred to Andy Gomarsall for the RBS 6 Nations showdown with Marc Lievremont’s in-form France side.
It will be the 24-year-old’s first start but Strettle, who is hoping to recover from a broken foot in time for England’s final game in the tournament, is confident the Sale man will not let his nation down.
He said: “I have known Wiggy for a while. I’m a Warrington lad so my local club was Sale and I was at their academy for a bit.
“He is a cracking lad both on and off the pitch and if he can take his club game and put it in an England shirt he will definitely be a handful for the French because not only has he got good distribution, if you also give him half a yard around the ruck he will make you pay.
“Put it this way, I don’t have any worries about him starting. I’m full of confidence about him and there are a lot of talented scrum-halves coming through. He has had to wait for his chance but now he has been given this opportunity to show what he can do I have no doubt he will.”
Head coach Brian Ashton resisted making wholesale changes following a jaw-dropping defeat by Wales in the first match and a laboured victory over Italy in the second, with both performances tailing off significantly after the break.
But Strettle is confident the players Ashton continues to pick will get it right sooner or later.
He said: “The problem with England is nothing to do with individuals’ skills or the coaches - it is a collective mental approach.
“I have been watching the games and if we had played the way we did in the first half of both games all the way through we would have walked all over the opposition.
“For me, if you can do it in the first half you should be able to do it in the second half and the thing that was lacking was concentration. It is very hard to concentrate for 80 minutes as it is such an intense environment but it is something the top teams can do.
“So when individuals start learning to do that in a team environment then that’s when England will put in a full game. It is something that could happen any time, it could be next week and when it does happen there won’t be many teams that can put up with us.”