Hendre Fourie is ready to seize on Lewis Moody's England misfortune – and hand selectors a big headache when the Red Rose skipper returns to fitness.
Indomitable captain Moody cut a stricken figure when he damaged medial knee ligaments in Bath's Heineken Cup encounter with Italians Aironi last weekend, opening the door to a Six Nations starting berth for Leeds Carnegie openside Fourie with one man's woe, another's opportunity.
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The 31-year-old South African, who qualifies for England on residency grounds, is widely viewed as the next cab off the rank in terms of Martin Johnson's options at seven, with Fourie also the in-form
openside in the country.
Many shrewd observers felt Fourie even outshone Moody during Carnegie's recent narrow Aviva Premiership loss at Bath, a performance which director of rugby Andy Key labelled as "world class."
Fourie himself is taking nothing for granted following Moody's injury, which will sideline him for England's first three matches – the tournament curtain-raiser against Wales at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on February 4 and the successive home matches at headquarters against
Italy on February 12 and France on February 26.
But if he impresses during the training camp in Portugal, he will be
the overwhelming favourite to get first shot at 'seven.' to replace Moody, who has been joined on the sidelines by highly-talented back row Courtney Lawes and Leicester's Tom Croft.
Rivals potentially include Wasps' vastly-experienced Joe Worsley, although he has carved out a niche as a blindside flanker, and Northampton's Steffon Armitage, but Fourie – who enjoyed a productive Autumn internationals campaign – seems to tick more boxes than all the other contenders.
On his prospects following the unfortunate injury sustained by Moody, Fourie, who heads off to the England training camp early next week, said: "Unfortunately, that's the way rugby goes. One player gets an injury and another has to put his hand up.
"If you get the opportunity, you want to play as much as you can and if I do, I'll try to do my best and keep my place in the team and give him (Moody) a bit of a hard time to get his place back.
"But Lewis is the captain and a real spiritual leader and a few of us
are going to miss him not being there.
"But it's a chance for someone to earn the same respect as when he plays.
"I feel as if I'm in good form at the moment and my fitness is quite good and physically, I feel really good, so hopefully I can replicate what I have been doing for Leeds on the pitch, if I get the opportunity and maybe do even better."
Fourie isn't getting too far ahead of himself and while many players would be salivating at the prospect of making their Six Nations bow in the cauldron of an England-versus-Wales clash in the rugby-mad Principality, not to mention potentially featuring against the decorated French and maybe a Calcutta Cup clash, the Carnegie man will focus on the games on an individual basis and their own merits and won't be getting swept along by a sense of occasion.
He said: "I just want to be involved in any of the games. It doesn't really matter who we are playing.
"Just to put the England shirt on is special. In the first game and the one's after, I'll just be concentrating on that.
"I'll just be concentrating on things, game by game and when the French
and Irish come, I'll be concentrating on that.
"The first game is Wales, so I'll be concentrating on that."
After the mouth-watering clash in Wales and back-to-back home clashes with Italy and France, England then entertain Scotland on March 13 before rounding off their campaign with a trip to Dublin to face
Ireland six days later.