Nick Easter's pushing hard for an England World Cup spot, says Graham Rowntree
Graham Rowntree admits Nick Easter has done everything possible to take advantage of Ben Morgan's fitness concerns by mounting a late challenge for selection in England's World Cup squad.
Easter was a central figure in the final-quarter revival in Saturday's 25-20 defeat by France in Paris, stepping off the bench to drive the fightback with some strong carrying and clever offloads.
England name their World Cup squad on Thursday and now face a choice between 37-year-old veteran Easter and Morgan, who recently played 40 minutes against Les Bleus at Twickenham in his first appearance since breaking his leg in January.
"Nick performed very well against France. He's good around the group," forwards coach Rowntree said.
"Unfortunately he missed four weeks of our camp with a back injury, so he's a bit behind, but he's got himself back up to speed.
"I thought he had an influential impact off the bench. The back row is already competitive, but then he comes on and performs like that...
"Then you've got to understand Ben has not played a great deal of rugby in the last eight months.
"His game against France at Twickenham was massive for him psychologically to get back on a rugby field.
"He's in the shape of his life, but we've still got to understand he has not played a lot of rugby. Nick playing like he did makes competition even fiercer."
Easter was among the falls guys for England's 2011 World Cup debacle and his international career appeared over until his outstanding form last season earned him a recall for the RBS 6 Nations.
The Harlequins number eight can cover the back and second rows, adding weight to his argument for selection in the eyes of Rowntree.
"Nick's ability to cover various positions and what he can bring to the match-day 23 will come into it," Rowntree said.
"He has played for England at six, eight and lock. He made his debut as a blindside flanker in 2007. That comes into the mix, as does his experience.
"He's in good nick and he's powerful. He can turn slow ball into good ball and has good tackle area knowledge."