"Making it Count" - 5 England Hopefuls Who Impressed In Round Seven of the Gallagher Premiership - Page 2 of 3 - Ruck

“Making it Count” – 5 England Hopefuls Who Impressed In Round Seven of the Gallagher Premiership

2. Ollie Hassell-Collins – Leicester Tigers

Ollie Hassell-Collins of England on the break is tackled by Kyle Steyn of Scotland during the Six Nations Championship, Calcutta Cup match between England and Scotland at Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London on February 4th 2023. – PHOTO: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

Sticking with the try-scoring wingers for the time being, Leicester Tigers flyer Ollie Hassell-Collins also put his hand up for future England selection over the weekend. Hassell-Collins responded to Sleightholme’s friday night performance with two tries of his own, as the East Midland’s rivals jostle for a spot in Steve Borthwick’s England squad. The Leicester Tigers man has been amongst Borthwick’s squad in the past, and made his test match debut in the 2023 Six Nations.

However, he failed to make the grade for the Rugby World Cup squad, and wants back in the fold following Jonny May’s international retirement. Hassell-Collins began his afternoon in Gloucester with a try just before the break, as he caught hold of the ball out wide, and weaved past Santi Carreras with a powerful first step. The Argentine could not wrestle the powerful winger into touch, with Hassell-Collins able to stroll over for the try.

Ollie Hassell-Collins of England during the England Rugby Captains Run ahead of the Six Nations Match between England and Italy at Twickenham, London on 11 Feb 2023 (Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK)

All the plaudits for Hassell-Collins’ second try go to Freddie Steward, as the England fullback had a stunning run-out at Kingsholm. Steward’s Man of the Match performance put Marcus Smith’s fullback ambitions on notice, with a key contribution coming in the set-up to Hassell-Collins’ second score. The winger once again brushed off Santi Carreras on his way through to the try-line, and showed a great turn of pace to run level with Steward for the pass, and then explode down the wing to score the try.

3. Rus Tuima – Exeter Chiefs

Rusi Tuima of Exeter Chiefs during the Gallagher Premiership match between Exeter Chiefs and Bristol Bears at Sandy Park, Exeter on 5th Nov 2023. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

Exeter Chiefs’ Rus Tuima has been putting the England locks on notice in recent weeks, and had another starring performance for his side this past weekend. Tuima has undergone a positional change this season, as he’s moved up a rung from the back-row to lock, and has thrived in each run-out in the four of five jersey. One of the Exeter’s top performers so far this season, Tuima’s versatility could help this upward trajectory, and could well take him into Borthwick’s plans for the 2024 Six Nations.

Tuima has been apart of the Exeter squad since 2018, after breaking through the side’s academy set-up. The Fijian-born talent has also previously experienced lone spells with Cornish Pirates, yet has really come into his own for the Chiefs within the past season. This new-look Exeter side has given Tuima a platform to flourish, as the likes of Jannes Kirsten and Mike Williams have moved on, which opened up vacancies across the row.

Rusi Tuima of Exeter Chiefs on the break during the Premiership Rugby Cup match between Exeter Chiefs and Cornish Pirates at Sandy Park, Exeter on 16th Sept 2023. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

Tuima made key contributions in attack and defence against the Falcons, with a key pair of carries making way for the eventual match winning try. In classic Exeter style, the Chiefs had their opponents pinned on their try-line, and battered their defensive structure with relentless short carries from close range. Tuima made a pair of strong charges in the match’s closing phases, with Newcastle throwing numerous bodies in the way of the 23-year-old. This cracked the Falcon’s foundations, with gaps opening up for Iosefa-Scott to score the winning try, off the following phase of play.