Jack Nowell set for shock positional switch to forwards under Ronan O’Gara
If anyone thought Jack Nowell’s recent preseason start at outside centre for La Rochelle was a bold move by Ronan O’Gara, that was only just the beginning.
A move from the wing to outside centre is nothing compared to the latest switch that some fans think could be on the cards. Speculation began this week when Nowell was used to model La Rochelle’s new away jersey, where there was a No8 emblazoned on his back.
The La Rochelle No8 shirt is usually filled by captain Gregory Alldritt, who is not only a guaranteed starter but probably the first name on the team sheet for the reigning Heineken Champions Cup winners. But the 26-year-old will not be available for the next three months while the World Cup is on. With the new Top 14 season set to get underway tomorrow, O’Gara might need to get imaginative in how he replaces his absent players.
Shifting Nowell to the back of the scrum might well be one of the ways that he is going to cope without Alldritt, but he would not be the first person to have that idea. Eddie Jones suggested moving Nowell into the back row four years ago while England head coach. He never lived up to his word though.
“We haven’t tried him out but he is definitely an option,” Jones said on playing Nowell at flanker. “He has great ball-carrying, great tackling skill; he puts his head over the ball, he’s a tough little bloke. He is going to be the new breed of player.
“The game has changed. The game used to be 80 minutes, now it is 100 minutes. The next change is you will have players who can play backs and forwards. Do you remember Rod Macqueen [Australia’s World Cup-winning coach]? He used to talk about it. It is going to happen. Jack Nowell is the one who stands out. [Tom] Curry and [Sam] Underhill are the opposite. They could play in a number of positions.”
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