Flanker Willis will be big asset for England, says forwards coach

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Premiership Semi Final - Wasps v Bristol Bears - Ricoh Arena, Coventry, Britain - October 10, 2020 Wasps' Jack Willis in action with Bristol Bears' Joe Joyce Action Images/Andrew Boyers/File Photo

(Reuters) - Breakdown specialist Jack Willis would bring intensity and physicality to the side if selected to make his debut against Italy in Saturday’s Six Nations finale, England forwards coach Matt Proudfoot said.

The Wasps flanker was named the Premiership Players’ Player of the Year after a season in which he tallied 46 turnovers -- 27 more than any other player.

The 23-year-old faces stiff competition from established internationals Tom Curry and Sam Underhill in the squad but Proudfoot has backed Willis to become an all-round asset for the squad.

“Jack has been really good for his club. His dynamic over the top of the ball has made a big impact,” Proudfoot told British media.

“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.”

England could win the Six Nations with a bonus-point victory on Saturday, with the game in Rome set to be their first since the tournament was postponed in March due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“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,” Proudfoot said.

“Our focus in this situation has been to go back to basics. That way if you need to adapt, you can adapt very quickly.”

Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford