Rugby Union: Stimpson - shape of the future

David Llewellyn says Rowell's discovery at full-back has all the right ingredients
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The Independent Online
It has been a long hunt, but it looks as if Jack Rowell has finally got his man. It is not merely for his undoubted attacking abilities that Tim Stimpson fits Rowell's bill as an attacking full-back. That description, taken baldly, implies a player for whom offence is all, someone for whom defence matters not a lot. That is emphatically not what Rowell's manhunt has been about.

Stimpson in Cardiff personified the perfect cloak and dagger full-back - the cloak to snuff out danger, the dagger to thrust through opposition lines and set up, or score, tries.

There a few prerequisites. Intelligence, which is possessed in abundance by the Newcastle full-back. A substantial frame on which to sit such a footballing brain, Stimpson is an ample 6ft 3in carrying some 15st 7lb of perfectly toned musculature. A tackle that could halt a runaway bus: Stimpson is one big bus stop. Power running to get back quickly or to carry him through enemy lines at pace, there is no question that he has that. And a kick like a mule - that is one thing he is ready to admit that he does need to work on it.

In fact Stimpson, 23, has long been regarded as the shape of the future in the No15 shirt. As his own fiercest critic he confessed after England's (and his) triumph: "Kicking from hand has not been one of my strongest points. It's something I need to keep working on. But I thought, against Wales, I had a decent game out of the hand. It is important when you have line-out specialists such as Martin Johnson to get the ball into touch because their ability is almost guaranteed possession even on an opposition throw-in."

That was not quite the case on Saturday, but never mind. The seminal moment of Stimpson's match came late in the first half. The brilliant Rob Howley chipped the ball high into the England 22. Stimpson had to turn and make ground towards his own line.

"It came down over my shoulder and as I tried to catch it it hit my knee and went back over the try line," explained Stimpson. Failure to control the ball then would have resulted in a five-metre scrum and there was every chance that Wales would have scored a pushover, or Howley would have sneaked over.

In the event, Stimpson raced after the ball, collected it on an oblinging bounce and hoofed it safely into touch beyond the 22.

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