England's Next Great Blindside and Their Answer To Pieter-Steph du Toit?

England's Next Great Blindside and Their Answer To Pieter-Steph du Toit?

The composition of England's back-row is hotly debated topic every time a squad is announced, more so since Eddie Jones has taken the reigns at HQ.

Jones has fired the debate since the start of his tenure with England by initially moving Chris Robshaw to the blindside in his first game as head coach in the Six Nations clash against Scotland with James Haskell taking the openside role. The Australian has continually added fuel to the fired debate by selecting the likes of Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes in the back row while more recently moving Tom Curry to the #8 jersey. 

Jones believes that Curry could follow the likes of former All Black Rodney So’oialo in evolving from a potentially world-class flanker into a world-class no.8 - a sentiment that So’oialo himself has agreed with. Curry has a long career ahead of him and having featured on the blindside of the scrum for most of the Rugby World Cup, England could be on the lookout for a blindside flanker to fill the void long term.

Courtney Lawes filled the void during the Six Nations but at the age of 31, it is unlikely that Lawes will make it through to the next World Cup as a nailed down starter. Meanwhile, Eddie Jones has claimed that his England squad for the 2023 World Cup could comprise of 60 per cent new members as he looks to go one step further than last year’s tournament.

One of the changes could see the development of the hugely impressive and highly rated Ted Hill step up and become a regular starter in the England jersey claiming the #6 jersey. 

Hill has all the attributes to be a world-class modern-day flanker. Jerome Kaino is credited for nailing the position in his prime with his ruthless defence, hardball carrying, outstanding work rate, excellent line out work and some slick handling. Pieter-Steph du Toit showed all those attributes in 2019 as he guided the Springboks to World Cup glory and was named as the World Player of the Year for his efforts.

Hill made his test debut back in 2018 against Japan but hasn't added to his test tally since. In his debut against Japan, he came off the bench with three minutes left play he made three quick-fire tackles.

At 21, Hill already looks ready to make the jump to test rugby and not only compete in one of the most physically demanding positions in the game but thrive in it. Hill shows his physicality in this first clip against Northampton Saints making a tackle on one of the players currently standing his way for a test start, Lewis Ludlam. 

It looks as if it is just a standard hit but his work rate to drive Ludlam backwards instead of simply taking him down is one of the key markers you look at in a test forward.

He does this again against the Bristol Bears. Chris Vui takes the ball on pace and initially wins the collision on Hill but the youngster does well to stall his momentum and drive him backwards with the help of Cornell du Preez. 

He displays more of his excellent work ethic on defence again against the Bears, this time on Nathan Hughes.

Hughes makes a half break through the defence but Hill covers him to make the tackle and again instead of just taking him down, he drives him towards the touchline and jumps back to his feet to try force the turnover.

In doing this, he takes the sting out of the Bears attack and stalls their momentum once again forcing them to attack with slow ball.

As mentioned earlier, Hill also has plenty to offer on attack too. He isn't just powerful ball carries and makes good decisions on attack.

He displays this with this break and pass in this excellent attack that should have resulted in a try for Worcester. He drew Reinach in before putting his winger through down the touchline.

In that game with the Saints, he made a brilliant 72 running metres from his 6 carries and made 10 tackles in a well-rounded performance.

He has enjoyed a fine season for Worcester Warriors this term averaging around 10 carries and 10 tackles per game and while not being the main lineout jumper he has won 26 lineouts - the kind of numbers required by a blindside in the modern game.

Hill is surrounded by an experienced Worcester Warriors coaching staff that will certainly help his development significantly but if is to fulfil his potential at test level, he will have to spend more time out on the pitch for England.   

Speaking to The Magic Academy podcast, Eddie Jones said it takes a player a year to settle in at test level: “What I’ve found is that most of the players in England need 12 months to adapt to the international scene,”  “You’ve got to have the patience to have that 12 months to allow them to have some failure, support them in their failure, and bring them through.” 

With blindside flank being such a demanding position at test level, it may even take Hill longer as it was the case for Pieter-Steph du Toit. Du Toit really only made the position his own in 2018 having debuted in 2013 and played some of his test rugby in the second row. With Rassie Erasmus even stating that he wouldn't have selected du Toit in squad after watching him in 2017 against the All Blacks.

Hill has the attributes and potential to mix it with some of the best blindside flankers in world rugby and could form a formidable back row with the likes of Tom Curry and Sam Underhill in years to come. 

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