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MIKE BROWN: Freddie Steward may be England’s Peter Schmeichel – he’s a safe pair of hands

MIKE BROWN: Freddie Steward may be England’s Peter Schmeichel – he gets the fundamentals right and he’s a safe pair of hands for Eddie Jones’ team

  • Freddie Steward has shown that he can be a reliable interpreter for England
  • Safe Hands Steward may be the English version of goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel
  • Manu Tuilagi is lost, there is no need for England to play him there


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England has missed someone like Freddie Steward for a while; It may be your Peter Schmeichel, the best safe pair of hands at the back.

When you have a solid full-back, it’s like having a first-rate goalkeeper in football. All the balls that go over the head of the defense, behind you, are swept away, which makes the job of the guys in front much easier. Calm everyone to have a winger like Steward, he can be the base of England.

It was kind of Eddie Jones to say that he is the best English winger since I played; I was only working with a 6 foot square, but he is 6 foot 5 inches which helps! He can be like Jordie Barrett for the All Blacks: a tall, commanding presence.

Freddie Steward is a reliable performer and can be a safe pair of hands on the back.

Freddie Steward is a reliable performer and can be a safe pair of hands on the back.

Steward can be as reliable for England as goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel was for Manchester United

Steward can be as reliable for England as goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel was for Manchester United

Steward can be as reliable for England as goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel was for Manchester United

With the sides, people often just want to see the featured reels, the glitzy breaks, but playing well there is about nailing your fundamentals first. I want to see high ball skills, make the right decisions to kick, run or pass, one-on-one tackles, clearing clutter and counterattack ability.

You can’t discount those skills if you want to have longevity and consistency as an international winger. If you don’t have that at the highest level, you can put your team under a lot of pressure.

Having built the foundations, Steward sprinkled that bit of gold dust by hitting that bright line in front of Marcus Smith, and then taking on Kurtley Beale one on one. For me, that’s the extra style, but you have to start with the basics.

South Africa is coming next week, and there is no better team in the world to put pressure on players with their kicking game, so Steward will be key to England winning that match.

Manu Tuilagi is lost on the wing: England have so many good wingers that you don't need to play him there.

Manu Tuilagi is lost on the wing: England have so many good wingers that you don't need to play him there.

Manu Tuilagi is lost on the wing: England have so many good wingers that you don’t need to play him there.

Away from Steward, I was not convinced by the riders who constantly changed positions. England named Manu Tuilagi on the wing, but he played heavily off center. Henry Slade used 13 but fell to winger, trading with Steward, who also appeared on the wing.

When I first saw the team Eddie chose, I felt like it was a bit like Sven Goran Eriksson trying to put Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Paul Scholes in the same midfield.

That didn’t work out for the England soccer team, fitting three big guns in two positions, and I don’t think that’s the way to go for Eddie either. You need to make a bold call and drop one of them.

Eddie tried it on me and Elliot Daly, moving one of us to the wing early in his tenure, and I wasn’t a big fan of that. In the 2018 South African tour for the attack, Elliot would go as a winger and in defense I would fall to 15; it was difficult since you don’t know where you stand. I prefer that the players play in the positions where they should be.

Manu is lost on the wing. England have so many good wingers that it is not necessary to get people out of position.

Henry Slade may have to flop onto the bench while Eddie Jones considers his stronger side

Henry Slade may have to flop onto the bench while Eddie Jones considers his stronger side

Henry Slade may have to flop onto the bench while Eddie Jones considers his stronger side

Does Slade have a broad future? No. So if you want Owen Farrell on the team, which, let’s be honest, Eddie does, you have to leave either Manu or Slade.

Personally, I would go to Smith-Manu-Slade as my 10-12-13 as I think they have the complete package as a trio that can get the win line, kick, pass and run. I’d love to see what those three can do together if given a chance. But we all know that Owen will not be eliminated, and Marcus will play number 10.

Then, with Manu’s threats and size, you have to face him against Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am. You need that power in the first phase and the ability to also use him as a decoy-runner, as well as a great hitter on defense.

That means Slade falls to the bench, and perhaps Max Malins comes in to secure the last three with his aerial skill key against South Africa.

But while the other backs move, the only immovable man is Steward. It’s his shirt to lose now.

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