England forwards coach Matt Proudfoot insists breakdown specialist Jack Willis is ready to make his Test debut if selected against Italy in Saturday’s Six Nations finale.
Willis, the 23-year-old Wasps flanker, has emerged as one of the Gallagher Premiership’s most influential players on the strength of his peerless jackling, which is accompanied by big hits in defence and a strong carry.
The current players’ player of the year is operating in a ferociously competitive area with Tom Curry and Sam Underhill among the more established options, but Proudfoot has seen enough during Wasps’ march to the Premiership final to know he will adapt immediately to Test rugby.
“Jack is definitely ready. Jack has been really good for his club. His dynamic over the top of the ball has made a big impact,” Proudfoot said.
“His relentless physicality also stands out. He’s always putting himself in the contest, in attack and defence. From a loose forward’s perspective, that’s exactly what you want.
“You want guys who will bring intensity and physicality and whether he’s in attack or defence, he’s constantly put himself there and hasn’t stepped off.
This time next week it will all be done and dusted.
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) October 25, 2020
“And that’s the type of effect we want from all the young players, to really grasp an opportunity to play for their clubs and put their hands up.
“The fact his club were in the final, played so well and took it to the edge had a lot to do with his mindset and how he played the game.”
England’s squad gathered for the first time in their entirety on Monday, leaving little time to prepare for the looming Stadio Olimpico showdown when the third Six Nations title of the Eddie Jones era is on the line.
“We’re building on from what we did in the Six Nations where there were some good foundations laid,” Proudfoot said.
“We’ve been in touch with the players on a regular basis during the club season so it’s really been a continuation on the Six Nations. And then it’s about the final coordination between the players.
“We’ve had two good sessions with the pack this week and we’re happy with where we are. Tomorrow we’ll be in game scenarios and get to test that.
“Our focus in this situation has been to go back to basics and really focus on the basics. That way if you need to adapt, you can adapt very quickly.”