Lawrence Dallaglio column: Ollie Chessum and England Test rookies can make most of wonderful opportunity

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Four wins for the home nations over Southern Hemisphere opposition last weekend have set up a mouthwatering day of deciders on Saturday — and I am hugely excited.

Best of luck to Ireland and Wales, who recorded historic first wins in New Zealand and South Africa respectively.

Often if you win in those countries, the hardest places to play, it’s best to get straight out of the country because you have poked the bear. They don’t have that luxury, but they have a wonderful opportunity to make more history tomorrow.

Scotland take on Argentina, and England face Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground. I am very much looking forward to this game, and feel the force is with England after an excellent win in Brisbane. Certainly I would rather be in their shoes than Australia’s. Clearly, you would rather have won both Tests, but England have some momentum and the opportunity to head into a World Cup year with a great series result under their belts.

It has been a hugely physical series, and both coaches have been forced to make more changes than they would have liked.

Five players are missing with concussion, three of them from an England team getting towards the end of a very long year which started with some of them on a Lions tour.

Looking around the pack especially, there is a sense that Eddie Jones is just picking the last players standing. Lewis Ludlam comes in for Sam Underhill (and before him, Tom Curry) on the flank and Jack Willis’s presence on the bench brings some real energy and breakdown specialism.

There is a big change in the second row, where England are without Maro Itoje, which is a big blow. Itoje is so often at the heart of everything good they do, and is one of the best in the world. He has very rarely missed big games in recent years.

But Ollie Chessum comes in after an excellent series with Leicester and some fine contributions off the bench on this tour. I like him a lot, and what a way to make your first Test start — in a decider against the old enemy!

I like how, similar to Courtney Lawes, Chessum can fill a number of roles in the back five and has enormous work rate. He has big shoes to fill, but is capable. For all that there is some inexperience — Chessum is one of four 21-year-olds, and there are two 19-year-olds on the bench — there are a lot of players with plenty of caps, too. That is why Danny Care is back at scrum-half, and Jones will be looking for all his street-smarts (and form).

That he has been dropped to the bench is no reflection of how Jack van Poortvliet played last week in Brisbane because he was among England’s best players.

If a young lad like Chessum were to come back having put in a big performance in a massive game such as this, it can be worth 10 to 15 caps’ of experience, not just one.

It is a wonderful opportunity for the whole group.

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