GRAHAM Kitchener is poised to make his debut for England from the bench following injuries to Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes and Geoff Parling.
The Baschurch lock, who plays for Leicester Tigers, has been training with the England squad this week ahead of Friday night’s Six Nations clash against Wales and looks likely to win his first cap.
Though uncapped by the senior side, Kitchener has represented his country at Under-20 level and captained an England XV side against the Barbarians last June. He would already have been capped by the All Blacks if he was born in New Zealand according to a former World Cup winner.
Tigers team mate Brad Thorn believes an international call-up is now long overdue for Kitchener.
In an interview given to the Daily Telegraph, New Zealander Thorn was effusive in his praise of his fellow lock, praising the 25-year-old’s athleticism, power and calling him ‘the full package’.
He said: “If he was in New Zealand, he would be an All Black. That's what I believe. They have Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick, but I just believe he would be an All Black.
“I look at Kitch and I see a Test player. Surely at some stage, sooner rather than later, he needs to be involved in the England squad in some way. He is 120kgs, a great athlete, a good scrummager and a great and smart line-out caller. He is the full package.”
Kitchener says he has benefited greatly from the influence of former All Black Brad Thorn at Welford Road this season.
“I have played a lot of games with Brad Thorn and he has been a great help to me,” said Kitchener.
“I think we have a good partnership and the way we played together and him making clear what my role was has given him a lot of confidence as well.
“He has spent a bit of time with me individually and we have a good understanding and for a player like that to back me is a great confidence boost for me.
At both club and international level Kitchener has found himself in competition with some of European rugby’s finest forwards for a starting spot.
To earn a place in the Tigers’ side Kitchener, who measures 6ft 7 inches and weighs 19 stone, has had to prove himself ahead of Thorn, Geoff Parling, Ed Slater, Louis Deacon and Sebastian de Chaves.
A similar picture emerges for England, where Parling, Slater, Joe Launchbury, Courtney Lawes, Dave Attwood and George Kruis all vie for a starting spot in a strongly contested position.