Maro Itoje backed to make impression if selected in England's Six Nations opener
Courtney Lawes is backing Maro Itoje to make his presence felt in England's back row if asked to replace Chris Robshaw against France on Saturday.
Itoje is likely to fill the void at blindside flanker created by Robshaw's RBS 6 Nations-ending shoulder surgery, starting in the position for the first time in eight internationals.
England's riches at lock, which include Lawes, mean Itoje can swap jerseys without weakening the second row and in some eyes he is the long term successor to Robshaw at six.
It was during France's visit to Twickenham in 2013 that Lawes undertook a similar change in position and while that experiment was never to be repeated, he believes Itoje's transition will be seamless.
"Maro is just a very good rugby player. The difference between five and six in this day and age isn't a huge one. He can certainly player either/or," Lawes said.
"Whether he plays in the second row or at six, he'll have an impact in the game. He's very good over the ball.
"As a line-out caller to have an option like him alongside two second rows must be what you want."
Lawes, who is expected to start alongside George Kruis at lock on Saturday, has occasionally been moved to flanker during matches.
"There are lots of good back rows now so I tend to stick to the second row," he said.
"I have played six for Northampton quite a few times last season and briefly at the end of one game in the autumn. You get the rangy number sixes now who are good line-out forwards.
"Rugby keeps changing and the players keep getting better and better, and it's great for the game, great for the public to watch.
"Everyone's got to be athletic now, everyone's got to be able to do the basics very well and do every job."
Lawes started all four matches of England's autumn clean sweep, lifting his caps total to 53, and is enjoying a renaissance under Eddie Jones aided by an injury-free spell.
"I definitely feel good - I'm getting back to my best. I've had a good run of games without niggles," he said.
"In previous years, my main thing was defence. I think I've improved in the offence side of things, carrying more at club level and in the last couple of games of the autumn.
"I want to make sure I'm very good at the basics, line-out, rucking, but I really want to stand out, carrying and getting round the park and making my tackles.
"Mako and Billy Vunipola are two of the best carriers in the world so you are always going to miss them when they're injured.
"But there are players, myself included, that can step up and fill those boots in this Six Nations."