With the debate raging on as to who is Johnny Sexton’s best replacement, an Irish outhalf named Gareth Steenson is lighting up England’s Aviva Premiership – he’s even been tipped to get an England call-up.
After an inspiring man of the match display in Exeter’s 27-16 win over high-flying Harlequins at the weekend, Chiefs coach Rob Baxter has tipped to Dungannon man as a future England star – and he qualifies through the resident rule.
“The way he played today and the way England flyhalves seem to be dropping, you never know do you? It would be fantastic for him if someone decides they want to have a look at him.”
That should put Declan Kidney on high alert, especially after dropping Ronan O’Gara and Paddy Jackson looking undercooked as an international 10.
28-year-old Steenson led the Chiefs with 17 points from the boot against Conor O’Shea’s men and the former Ireland under-21 player also set up a try to help Exeter become the first side to do the league double over Quins this season.
Baxter was high in his praise for the forgotten Ulsterman.
“He’s been playing very well for us and thoroughly deserves the accolades he’ll get,” he said. “Not only did he make those breaks and show a cutting edge but tactically he kicked very well.”
Steenson, now in his fifth year at Exeter, is arguably Ireland’s form outhalf, fully fit that is.
He has started every Aviva and Heineken Cup game for the Chiefs since October and his efforts were rewarded with a new contract in December.
Now a seasoned pro with an attacking threat – something Ireland are short of after Sexton – Steenson can put his hand up for an Irish squad call-up.
“Steene’s had a good run now, he’s having a run of games and that’s what flyhalves need,” reasoned Baxter.
He added: “He’s kicking well and he’s looking more and more comfortable and content out there all the time.”
In the meantime, Irish assistant coach Less Kiss has said that Kidney has “kept an eye” on Steenson, but is it time he made a phonecall?
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