Danny Grewcock today looked forward to his favourite challenge in rugby mixing it with South Africa.
The big Bath lock joins forces with returning England captain Martin Johnson for the first time this season at Twickenham on Saturday in a second-row pairing which is arguably the most formidable in world rugby.
‘‘Rugby’s a physical game and the South Africans are best at that,’’ said Grewcock.
‘‘They’re great big guys and they use their strength and size very well. But we’ve got the players to handle it.’’
Grewcock knows that better than most, having partnered Johnson in the last two triumphant encounters against the Springboks the bloodbath at Twickenham last December, which England won 25-17, and the summer 2000 match in Bloemfontein, which England won 27-22.
The latter rates as 6ft 6in Grewcock’s finest match, a rumbustious battle in which Jonny Wilkinson kicked eight penalties and a drop goal and the Bath man ruled the line-out.
‘‘Yeah, that has to be one of my favourite games,’’ said Grewcock. ‘‘It was a good game to play in last week against Romania but the games which are really satisfying are the tight games when you have to work hard for 80 minutes to get a close victory.
‘‘We had to dig deep, battle it out and it came down to the last few minutes and we held on. With us losing the Test before in Pretoria it made that victory all the more important to us.’’
Grewcock retains his place on Saturday despite the brilliant performances of Leicester’s Ben Kay against Australia and Romania.
Kay makes way for Johnson with, according to Grewcock, the full backing of the England squad.
‘‘Jonno’s the automatic choice, it’s as simple as that,’’ said Grewcock.
‘‘You just have to look at what he has achieved and his phenomenal work rate. He commands a great deal of respect from all the lads, as a player and as a captain.
‘‘Neil Back has been a fantastic captain but I think he’s quite happy to pass over the captaincy to Jonno.
‘‘Ben came in and played incredibly well against Australia and had another fantastic performance against Romania. He had also proved himself on the summer tour. But there were no problems with Jonno coming straight back in to lead the team.’’
Kay proved, however, that Johnson was not irreplaceable - something that this confident England team also see as a positive.
‘‘We got on with the job without him,’’ said Grewcock. ‘‘Jonno brings a lot to the team but if he’s not there we’ll cope. I think we’ve proved that.
‘‘The depth of quality is one of the reasons I’m enjoying playing with England. I enjoy the pressure of being pushed by guys like Ben Kay and Steve Borthwick.’’