At just 21 years of age, Ollie Lawrence already has the reputation of being a devastating ball carrier.
The Worcester Warriors centre was named by Eddie Jones in England’s Six Nations squad and is in with a good chance of starting in the opening game against Scotland.
The youngster was named ahead of the experienced Jonathan Joseph, who toured New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions in 2017, and has been compared to the currently unavailable Manu Tuilagi.
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Ollie Lawrence on Manu Tuilagi comparisons.
“Manu is someone I’ve looked up to since I was a kid,” Lawrence said.
“When I was a lot younger I wanted to emulate him because the way he played excited me. I would watch his game, and watch him. That is probably how my game evolved, watching players like him.
“I know I am never going to be Manu. Manu is never going to be me. He has got so many caps for England, he is probably one of the best centres to ever play.
“If people want to compare me to him, that’s their opinion, I am not going to fight them on it. It is not a burden at all. If anything, it’s flattering,” Lawrence explained.
‘It was mind-blowing’
Lawrence has won three caps for his country to date, earning his first start for England in their Autumn Nations Cup encounter with Georgia and retained his starting position for the game with Ireland.
The game in Twickenham was a particularly physical encounter, with Lawrence admitting it was a step up from the standard of play he was used to with Worcester in the Gallagher of Premiership.
“The Ireland game [in November] was probably the most intense game I have ever been involved in.
“In terms of physicality and the way the game was played with boys flying off the line and hitting people, it was mind-blowing to be honest with you,” Lawrence said.
The hard-running centre grew to love the game somewhat late in life, revealing that he was in his mid-teams before he realised that rugby was the sport he should look to pursue as a career.
“Football was my first love, I loved playing it, but it was just something I never saw myself being. The environment of being in an academy at such a young age, it wasn’t for me.
“It clicked for me when I was 16. I didn’t really want rugby – cricket was where I saw myself going – then I played rugby for Midlands Under-15s, and when I played England U16s, professional rugby was the only thing on my mind,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence is in line to win his third cap for England in their Six Nations opener against Scotland, and could come up against his close friend Cameron Redpath.