'World-class Cole can become scarily good'
Leicester Tigers prop Boris Stankovich believes team-mate Dan Cole could become 'scarily good' as England's No.1 tight-head.
The two men made their first team debuts just a month apart, in 2007, and Stankovich has seen his younger front-row partner develop from Academy prospect into one of the world's best No.3s.
In the last 12 months, Cole has taken his game to new levels of consistency and the improvement in his game around the park would make it a huge surprise were he not on the plane to Australia with the British & Irish Lions this summer.
"The game of rugby has changed and Dan has adapted to that superbly well," said 32-year-old Stankovich. "Dan has worked on parts of his game, is good around the park and is one of the best turnover merchants in rugby now.
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"His whole game has come on so much from when I arrived at the club. He was a very young man back then, now he is still only 24, even though he looks 34.
"He is developing into a world class tight-head and he's only going to get better – that is the scary thing about it.
"The only worry would be if he picks up some injuries. But, if he looks after his body, he will be one hell of a rugby player."
Stankovich believes that Cole's fierce rivalry for a starting shirt with Martin Castrogiovanni will actually help both men prolong their careers, even if, in the short term, it is frustrating to miss out on a game.
On current figures, Castrogiovanni has started 63 per cent of his games for the club, while Cole is close by at 56 per cent.
"Regardless of what everyone thinks and what they think about each other wanting to start games, it is good for them to be rotating and coming off the bench to replace each other," he said.
"When we get to the big games at the end of the season, it usually comes down to how fresh the players are and the rotation will help them both stay fresh."
Unlike Cole, and by his own admission, Stankovich is in the twilight of his career and claims to be the only man in the Aviva Premiership to still be wearing high-cut boots!
But he is enjoying every minute of being out on the pitch after a shoulder operation in the summer and is only three appearances away from a century in club colours.
"It was a long wait after surgery and I did not get back as early as I would have wanted to," he said.
"I am still building up my fitness and getting used to the knocks.
"At nearly 33, I am just enjoying being out there and seeing the younger players coming through."