Tuesday 26 September 2017

Joseph becomes England's centre of attention

South Africa 22 England 17 Mick Cleary in Durban

As England hauled their battered bodies and bruised egos north to Johannesburg, it was fitting that they should be heading to a city that built its fortune on unearthing rare gems, for in Jonathan Joseph they may have discovered a nugget that can yet save the series for them.

There were few consolations to be had in what the scoreboard details as a narrow defeat, but Joseph's cameo appearance was one. The London Irish centre was on the field for only three minutes yet he showed the diamond quality in the sole of his shoes that helped create a last-gasp try for Ben Foden.

No one doubts the potential of the 21-year-old. All that is in question is when England will chose to unshackle him.

"Getting JJ on gave us a little spark that ignited a try," said head coach Stuart Lancaster. "This is a tour to win games, clearly, but it's also a tour to look at players and options. Moving Manu Tuilagi to inside centre and having someone like JJ at 13 who can make an outside break is an option."

Lancaster has not shied away from making bold decisions before and to throw Joseph into a Test at Ellis Park would certainly rank as audacious. Yet England are solid and workmanlike in midfield but they pose no threat.

It is little surprise that the potency of the back three has tailed off, with wing Chris Ashton failing to score in six Tests, his hat-trick against the Barbarians notwithstanding. The double-banking of Foden and Mike Brown was a defensive ploy, designed to deal with the Boks' aerial game and utilise Brown's booming left boot.

England lack the X factor. Joseph has that, dubbed "the next Jeremy Guscott," by his then coach at London Irish, Mike Catt.

Morne Steyn's try eight minutes after the second-half restart set the tone, South Africa sending wave after wave of green shirts into England's territory to highlight the gulf between the sides. A second score was not long in coming, Jean de Villiers smashing through Brown to touch down. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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