DANNY Grewcock believes Courtney Lawes is the best second row in England – but despite his advancing years, the World Cup winner is adamant Simon Shaw will have a major part to play at the World Cup.
Despite making his international debut in 1996, Shaw had to wait more than a decade to properly pull on the red rose jersey at a World Cup as England finished runners-up to South Africa in 2007.
He came tantalisingly close in 2003 having featured in all three warm-up matches and, even after flying out to Australia as a replacement for the injured Grewcock, he never played a minute.
Fast forward eight years and Shaw played his first warm-up match ahead of September’s World Cup in the 23-19 win against Wales at Twickenham before being left out of the 19-9 reverse in Cardiff.
Shaw battled it out with Tom Palmer, Mouritz Botha, Louis Deacon and Lawes for the second row spots but he won his World Cup opportunity, with Johnson going for experience over youth.
“I think we’re spoilt for choice a little bit currently in terms of the second rows we have in and around the England set up,” said Grewcock – who like Shaw was awarded a World Cup winners medal in 2003.
“Tom Palmer has really hit form at the right time and he has hit his best form as well and the same goes for Louis Deacon who is doing a great job at the moment.
“But Courtney Lawes is probably the star performer of that group after his performance in the most recent game against Wales but equally he is being put under pressure by Simon who just keeps going.
“I think there is a really good group of second rows working hard and it is going to be really interesting come World Cup time to see how it goes.”
Coach Martin Johnson announced his final 30 bound for New Zealand on Monday and World Cup winner Grewcock admits England would have been poorer without Shaw in their squad.
“The Wales loss is a bit of a shock and it will be disappointing for all the players and the coaches but I have no doubt that they have a fantastic squad there and they’ll learn from it,” he added.
“I’m looking at it really positively for the World Cup, there is a really positive set of young players there and it looks like an exciting time ahead but Simon brings you something different and that’s crucial at a World Cup.”
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