'England must give Brendon O'Connor a chance' - Lewis Moody

Brendon O'Connor qualifies for England through his grandmother David Rogers/Getty Images

Ex-England captain Lewis Moody has called for Eddie Jones to include Leicester Tigers' Brendon O'Connor in the selection mix for the Six Nations.

New Zealand-born O'Connor has played just three matches for the Tigers since joining from the Auckland Blues in the summer but has made a promising start to his time in the Aviva Premiership. He qualifies for England through his grandmother and Moody, who won 71 caps for England, feels he could offer an answer to their openside dilemma.

"Brendan O'Connor is worthy of inclusion in the squad from what I've seen so far," Moody told ESPN. "He's a destructive tackler, he's got good ball skills and he is hard over the breakdown. He understands that breakdown area. I'd like to see him included and to be given the opportunity."

Chris Robshaw was England's first-choice No.7 throughout Stuart Lancaster's tenure but Jones has previously said he does not see him as an out-and-out openside. That view could see Jones look elsewhere ahead of England's Six Nations opener against Scotland on Feb. 6 and Moody -- speaking as a Natwest RugbyForce ambassador -- has backed Leicester's O'Connor to fill that berth.

"His performances for Leicester warrant him having that chance and then it's up to him to take the opportunity and to show us what he's capable of," Moody said. "There are other players there who will want to have a crack at the openside spot -- the likes of Will Fraser, Matt Kvesic and Luke Wallace -- but for me O'Connor has stuck his hand up the most."

Moody added: "For so long England have been talking about having an out-and-out fetcher but we've only ever produced one and that's Neil Back. He had to play that way and that's because of his size and shape.

"We haven't gone out to create that mould of No.7s as referees do not allow that contest at the breakdown but referees are more consistent now and there is that new emphasis on needing that fetcher-type player. It is down to Eddie Jones to invest in these types of players and O'Connor is the one who fits the mould best at this stage."

And Moody, who was part of the 2003 World Cup-winning side, also wants to see Saracens forward Maro Itoje given a chance by Jones. Itoje captained England's Under-20 side to the 2014 Junior World Championships title and was included in the wider training group ahead of the last World Cup but missed out on selection.

"I really think Itoje should be given an opportunity," Moody said. "I'm still not sure whether he will end up a six or in the second-row. I love his tenacity, his temperament but I'm not sure if he has the pace to play blindside or the physical presence for the second-row. But he definitely deserves a chance to shine.

"Neil Back was written off for so many years and it was only when he was given a chance with England that he proved what he was capable of. I believe he is worthy of an opportunity within that squad, perhaps in that match away at Italy."

Lewis Moody is a NatWest RugbyForce 2016 ambassador, encouraging rugby clubs to enter for the opportunity to attend free workshops, receive financial support and pitch maintenance sessions from the RFU's head groundsman Keith Kent. Register at www.englandrugby.com/natwestrugbyforce