By Tom Masters
David Flatman insists England have more than enough front-row firepower to handle South Africa’s infamous ‘bomb squad’ when the two sides clash in the Autumn Nations Series.
Eddie Jones’ men take on the Springboks at Twickenham on November 26 after facing Argentina, Japan and New Zealand throughout a hectic November.
The visitors’ daunting front row has been well-documented in recent years, with the likes of Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, Frans Malherbe being backed up by an equally potent set of replacements.
But former Bath star Flatman, 42, is confident that the trio of Ellis Genge, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Kyle Sinckler have what it takes to handle the South African stars at the end of next month.
He said: “The South African scrum options are great and they’re proven at the very highest level.
“But if you’re talking about (Ellis) Genge, (Luke) Cowan-Dickie and (Kyle) Sinckler, you could put that in a World Cup final tomorrow and there is a very good chance it would do just fine.
“So it might come down to South Africa bringing some big guns off the bench and seeing what England have off the bench.
“But I just think England have got a lot of kit when it comes to the front row and they’re not struggling for numbers, so I think they’ll be more than alright and definitely have enough.”
Flatman also believes that while England’s starting front row for the autumn picks itself, there is plenty of opportunity up for grabs on the bench after a whole host of injuries.
Flatman, speaking at special event alongside Mike Tindall and James Haskell at Aylesbury RFC as part of the RFU’s ‘Play Together, Stay Together’ initiative, added: “There are always a few knocks, and it is helpful that with Will Stuart’s injury that Kyle Sinckler has come into a bit of form.
“So that works out quite nicely, Luke Cowan-Dickie is a top-notch operator as well with Jamie George out, so that’s helpful, and then you’ve got Gengey (Ellis Genge), who is probably your world XV loosehead at this stage – he’d certainly be mine.
“So that’s your front line sorted, but the bench spots will be interesting, there’s a hooker spot available and I’ve been a big fan of George McGuigan for a long time and banging on that drum.
“But I’ve repeatedly said how good I think he is, I think he is a brilliant, brilliant player and I really don’t think there is as much between him and Luke Cowan-Dickie or Jamie George as people might presume and his lack of exposure at Test level might suggest.
“The prop options, I think Bevan Rodd is doing really, really well, I think he is already an excellent player, but I think it is the bits and bobs he does around the field, he is a clever carrier, a far clever carrier than people might think he is because people he is new.
“Then there is Val Rapava Ruskin who has become very consistent, he is excellent around the field, and he has got a lot of mass and stubbornness, which counts for a lot, so it is going to be interesting to see who is selected there.”
The RFU’s Play Together, Stay Together campaign is aimed at reminding rugby fans of all the benefits that come with playing rugby. Whether it’s the physical benefits of regaining your fitness, or the mental benefits of being surrounded by a like-minded group of people, there’s always a reason to head back to your local club.