• Dan's the man, insists scrum coach Rowntree
  • Destructive Tigers' prop ready for first start

Photo: Getty Images

A year ago Dan Cole was playing on loan at Nottingham. Now he’s preparing to make his first RBS 6 Nations start against the hard-scrummaging Italians in Rome.

The 22-year-old Leicester Tigers prop – a second half replacement in the 30-17 win against Wales – takes over from David Wilson with a ringing endorsement from England’s scrummaging coach Graham Rowntree.

"Dan’s temperament is his strength, he is tough but he doesn't go around banging his chest," said Rowntree.

"We did think twice about playing him against Italy but we will take that chance because I know Dan can do it. He did a great job coming on against Wales last week and I have every confidence in him."

Cole is hardly an unknown quantity, though, having graduated through the England Under 18 and Under 20 ranks before playing in all four England Saxons games last season.

At Leicester he has been brought on through loan spells at Bedford and Nottingham before challenging the likes of Julian White and Martin Castrogiovanni, who he will face at the Stadio Flaminio, for the No.3 shirt.

Destructive performances

Photo: Getty Images

His destructive performances against Clermont Auvergne and London Wasps have been the highlights of a season he hoped would establish him as a first team regular at Welford Road.

"This is a big surprise because at the start of the year I wouldn't have expected it," Cole said.

"At the start of the season my goal would have been to establish myself in the Leicester side and become a reliable player that [Leicester boss] Richard Cockerill trusts.

"You are not going to play for England unless you are playing for your club and so that was my aim at the beginning of the season.

"The Wasps game got all the attention but it wasn't a one-off. We had been playing well before then. The Clermont game was a big step forward.

"It was a big pressure game against one of the best scrummaging teams in Europe. It was about proving to everyone you can deal with those situations. We did all right and we won the game."

Cole puts his development down to working alongside the likes of White and Castrogiovanni on a daily basis.

"Whitey and Castro set the standards. Castro is one that you watch and you try to achieve the same quality he does," he added.

"He is probably telling the Italian pack to target the guy making his first start."