Ollie Lawrence has only recently emerged from one dark place but against France next Saturday he will willingly hurl himself into another.
After years of searching for an alternative to Manu Tuilagi for the role of for tackle-busting centre, marauding displays against Italy and Wales indicate Lawrence may be the answer.
The 23-year-old made his Test debut under Eddie Jones but was marginalised after failing to convince the Australian and upon recovering from a recurring calf injury, his club Worcester went into administration.
But revitalised by his October move to Bath, a player who was not in Steve Borthwick’s initial Six Nations squad is taking the tournament by storm.
Tough assignments against France at Twickenham and Ireland in Dublin across the final two rounds ramp up the competition, forcing Lawrence to look inwards for the inspiration needed to run into brick walls.
“Whenever you play against these top teams it requires you go to another level and find that dark place within yourself to get through it,” he said.
“You definitely need to find that dark place for carrying. Sometimes you see people in front of you and think, ‘this isn’t going to be too pretty!’.
“But if you think about it in the grand scheme of things – and not in that moment – getting that quick ball can relay into having some sort of counter-attack on the opposite side of the field in a couple of phases’ time. One action leads to the other.
“I’ve always enjoyed carrying the ball. As I’ve got a bit older I’ve also enjoyed getting on the other side of the ball as well, but my attack is something I’ve always liked doing.
“One of the aspects of my game is being able to beat defenders and try to create one-on-ones and two-on-ones.”
A look at the world rankings 🌐 pic.twitter.com/UKcl0O5k33
— Guinness Six Nations (@SixNationsRugby) March 3, 2023
Although England v France is among the most highly anticipated fixtures on the international calendar, Lawrence will approach it as if he is playing junior rugby.
“I’m pretty chilled and try not to think too much about the game coming up,” he said.
“I listen to my music and go about it like I’m at school. Like I’m seeing my dad to go to the game and treating it like a normal day.
“I like to treat games all the same so everything’s aligned and then in the match, getting your hands on the ball early is always key and if you can’t do that then a tackle or a kick chase which forces an error.”