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'A noticeable step forward': Where Exeter reckon Lions helped Hill

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Exeter boss Rob Baxter has suggested that the Jonny Hill who arrived at England camp in Jersey on Monday is a much-improved version of the lock that was involved with Eddie Jones’ squad for the 2021 Guinness Six Nations earlier this year. The Chiefs were humbled at home last Saturday by London Irish in their final match before their England players headed away for Test preparation duties. 


However, Hill departed with no finger of blame getting pointed in his direction by Baxter following a loss that left Exeter in sixth place, twelve points behind leaders Leicester. This time last year the 27-year was preparing to make his Test debut versus Italy and while the collective England form slumped last spring, the rookie Hill still did enough to earn Lions selection.

The tour to South Africa didn’t go extravagantly well. Hill didn’t make the Test squad but Baxter reckons the lessons learned on that adventure has helped the forward develop into an even more threatening menace capable of performing impressively with England in the coming weeks versus Tonga, Australia and South Africa.     

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Ex-England skipper Jonny Hill guests on RugbyPass Offload
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Ex-England skipper Jonny Hill guests on RugbyPass Offload

“Some of the conversations you have with players are confidential so I don’t want to say too much but I certainly think in his own mind he probably thinks that he could have done better at the end of last season, which would have set him up better for the Lions which would then have given him more opportunities to play,” suggested club coach Baxter about his second row.  

“That is part of that learning as a player and looking at him already (this season), that is the lesson he has learned. He has come back and been thoroughly involved with us and has stayed thoroughly involved with us up to the last minute of the game (against Irish) before he headed off with England and I fully expect him to carry on with that. 

“It [the Lions] has been a very good experience for him despite him not playing very much. It’s like anything, you learn a lot about yourself when you are disappointed by what has happened more than when it has been great and that is the same with Jonny, he is on a very good pathway towards understanding and experiencing very important things in a good rugby player’s career.


“He was very good for the last three Exeter games. He was probably one of the guys who didn’t get as much wrong as he thinks he did at the weekend because he has certainly got on with it since he got back in. 

“He has got mistakes in him but on the whole, he has been having great energy. In two out of the three games, he has actually been the forward with the most involvement in the game. Now I am not going to say every involvement has been amazing but there was a lot of them. 

“That is a noticeable step forward that I have seen, his actual involvements and his willingness to be involved in the game for long periods and getting onto the next thing and the next involvement has been fantastic in these three weeks. 

“That will be the thing that will allow him to improve the quickest and will certainly allow him to impress himself on the international scene because that is what you have to do. You have to be able to come from a club where you are quite happy, you feel quite capable and want to have lots of involvement.


“You have to step into the international arena and have exactly that same attitude of getting on with things and having lots of impacts and involvements in your game and hopefully that is what he will continue with England and then you will start to see the best of him.”


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