Will Greenwood believes Kyle Eastmond will hold his own against Sonny Bill Williams
Eastmond ready for another crack at New Zealand
Last Updated: 07/11/14 7:35pm
Will Greenwood believes England centre Kyle Eastmond will more than hold his own against New Zealand counterpart Sonny Bill Williams at Twickenham on Saturday.
Eastmond has fought hard to regain his place in the England set-up following New Zealand's emphatic 36-13 victory in the third Test between the teams in Hamilton in June.
On that day Eastmond’s defence was not up to scratch and he was substituted at half-time, but he has a chance to make amends when he lines up alongside Brad Barritt to face the All Blacks this weekend.
The former rugby league star will be up against another code-convert in Williams, who is back for a second stint in the 15-man game and is, according to All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, better than ever.
Eastmond may concede eight inches in height and five stones in weight to his rival, but Greenwood believes the Bath back has a lot more to offer than he delivered in New Zealand.
“Stuart Lancaster talked about heading home from New Zealand in the summer having lost the series and Kyle Eastmond finding him at the airport,” said Greenwood on Sky Sports News HQ.
“He went up to Lancaster and said that he was going to come back as England’s No.12 and Bath’s No.12. This was at a time when he had just been substituted after 40 minutes in the third Test and was almost beginning to lose his No.12 jersey at Bath.
“He has gone back to his club and has been outstanding this year. He is wonderful with ball in hand and lethal in a confined space. He is also not the defender he has been pigeon-holed as on the back of that third Test. That was very much down to team errors and he was the one they had to change at half-time to perhaps change the way the game was going.
“Eastmond is a tough, northern nugget who loves his rugby and he was bristling in training alongside Brad Barritt.
“All the headlines are 'how good are New Zealand' and 'is Sonny Bill Williams from this planet' – and Eastmond is relishing this and going ‘great, bring it on’.
“Barritt often comes in for criticism for not giving the width that an international team might want but when he plays for England his attributes are that he is an absolute stopper. He does not miss tackles; that means Eastmond can really focus on his area.”
Greenwood's Sky Sports' colleague Stuart Barnes agrees with this assessment and feels Eastmond's lack of size in comparison to Williams may actually work in his favour.
“People talk about Eastmond being 5ft 7in and Sonny Bill being 6ft 3in, and there being a five stone difference," said Barnes.
"But unless you have someone like Sam Burgess who can absolutely smash you, Sonny Bill has such range and skill that he will get his pass away. I would rather see someone a little bit shorter like Eastmond go low – Williams won’t be able to go with the big fend that he uses so often, against a 5ft 7in man.”
Another England player to fill Greenwood with anticipation is serving-soldier Semesa Rokoduguni, who makes his international debut in the No.14 shirt.
“Rokoduguni has been outstanding for Bath and it is one heck of a story," he said. "He has been on the front line in Afghanistan – talk about pressure! He has said if he makes a mistake out on the field he will deal with it; he had to get everything right in Afghanistan so I am sure he will thrive in this environment.
“The whole country will get behind him - it is such a big day, a very emotional day and to have an army winger out there is just wonderful. I hope he gets some early touches and I think he will absolutely smash someone just to get that first touch out of his system.
“You can’t start comparing him to a Julian Savea, but he has a Savea-like physique, has pace and is a wonderful off-loader. If England can work on the foundations, get the platform off the pack then hopefully we might see some special things from a man Bath and the army have known about for a long time.”
England v New Zealand is live on Sky Sports 2 from 1.30pm on Saturday