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Stevens backs Wilson to shine

Davey Wilson will come of age in England's autumn internationals, heaping pressure on injured rival Dan Cole, according to Matt Stevens.

Former England prop Stevens has backed Bath tighthead Wilson to prove himself "a force to be reckoned with" at Test level in a packed November schedule.

Stevens believes England will shrug off a litany of front-row injuries to prove their set-piece strength in autumn clashes against New Zealand, South Africa, Samoa and Australia.

England are missing front-rowers Mako Vunipola, Alex Corbisiero, Cole and Tom Youngs for the autumn series, with Joe Marler and Wilson inked in as props.

Former Saracens prop Stevens has tipped Wilson to shine this autumn, creating a new level of competition with Leicester's Cole, still sidelined with neck trouble.

"I think Davey Wilson's been phenomenal, from the brief excerpts I've watched and some of the Test matches," said Stevens.

"With how he's playing for Bath I think he's a force to be reckoned with.

"When I said Dan Cole getting back, that would be great for England, I meant it, but I think he's going to fight to get back into that jersey.

"Dan's very good at the defensive game and getting over the ball, but I think Davey is a different level to him carrying the ball, which is important.

"So they've both got different strengths in different areas and they are both very good scrummagers.

"It's a big call for Graham, but nice to have that.

"I think there's a lot of depth when everyone's fit, obviously they're not all fit at the moment."

Natal Sharks prop Stevens cemented the Barbarians' scrum in their thrilling 40-36 defeat to Australia at Twickenham on Saturday.

The 32-year-old, who retired from international rugby in 2012, said England have the depth of front-row resources not to need to send any SOS calls his way ahead of next year's World Cup.

The former British and Irish Lions prop hailed ex-Saracens team-mate Mako Vunipola as the "best ball-carrying prop" he has ever played alongside.

Stevens believes England have the front-row resources to match any side in the world, should the likes of Corbisiero, Cole and Vunipola be fit as expected for next year's Six Nations and beyond.

"If they can get those guys back and playing as soon as possible, it really holds us in good stead for the World Cup," said Stevens.

"And I don't think anyone's first choice in there either.

"I think Mako proved last year that he's a much better scrummager than people give him credit for.

"And he's out and out the best ball-carrying prop I've ever played with.

"It's not an easy one for me to say because I've played with some great ball-carrying props, but he is brilliant.

"It's not just ball-carrying actually, everything he does, in defence and attack.

"It's matched by a dogged scrummaging performance last year."


From Belfast Telegraph