England scrummaging coach Graham Rowntree has revealed Matt Mullan is close to winning his first full cap and should do so on the summer tour to Argentina.
Only last week Mullan was called up to the Saxons squad for the first time in his career and even before he has played a game of representative rugby at senior level, one of Martin Johnson’s inner sanctum has earmarked him for a promotion.
Rowntree, the man charged with restoring the England scrum to former glories, believes the Worcester Warrior has a bright future and hinted that the 21-year-old might not be far from dislodging the mountainous Andrew Sheridan from the No 1 shirt.
Just as Mike Ruddock, Mullan’s director of rugby at Sixways, did last week Rowntree pointed to the youngster’s outstanding game statistics as evidence that his is an ascendant star, which is rising so quickly it should reach the top in a matter of months.
“Matt has really pushed himself under our noses, big time, this season,” Rowntree said. “He wouldn’t do a bad job if he was thrown into a Test game now. I have got a lot of belief in him. He has got some fine coaches, Tony Windo – a good mate of mine – has to take a lot of credit for that. He has done a lot of work with Matt and he has developed really well.
“But we have got to be careful how we develop Matt because realistically he is not far off the starting XV.
“We will play him in the Saxons and then hopefully he will go on the Argentina tour with England in the summer. We are progressing him the right way because we can’t just throw him in there.”
Mullan’s cause is mostly helped by his own outstanding displays but recent concerns over Sheridan’s fitness and form have also helped.
The Sale loosehead is likely to win a British Lions call up leaving Mullan with the chance to go to South America at the end of the season – assuming he is still playing well.
If the energy of his performances so far this campaign is anything to go by there is no sign of drop off at the moment.
“He has got a tremendous work rate,” Rowntree continued. “We employ an analyst company who provide data every week for every player in the Premiership, English, Tongan, whoever, and he is always in the top few for front rows in terms of tackles, ruck clearing out and ball carries.
“He is a tremendous scrummager too, I have been really impressed with what he has done in that area. He has played against all the top tightheads and had a real good go at them. We do our research on all our players, we have spoken to all the England guys he’s played against and they have said good things about him.
“He has got a big future. He will never be the biggest of props though and I speak as a guy who was never that big. I had to work a lot technically and physically and I see a lot of that in him.
“I really like him and I am looking forward to seeing him for the Saxons.”
Rowntree and Johnson will have to wait on that front, however. Under normal circumstances the former Bromsgrove School student would make his debut against Portugal – at Sale – on January 30.
But with the Sharks due to arrive at Sixways the following day for their rearranged Premiership fixture, Mullan will join up with the rest of the squad a few days late.
He should, however, be a shoo in for the game against Ireland the following Friday and a good performance at Donnybrook could see him catapulted further up the pecking order.