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'He's a hard bugger, I knew when he went down he'd done something bad'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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Jack Nowell has wished Luke Cowan-Dickie, his Exeter and England pal, well after it was confirmed on Thursday that the hooker will play no further part in this year’s Guinness Six Nations. The forward injured his knee during last Saturday’s round three win over Wales and the Chiefs have now said that an operation will be needed to mend the ligament damage.

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Nowell and Cowan-Dickie had been thick as thieves this past month, enjoying each other’s company as they ground out the miles getting up and down to London from Devon for their England engagements. 

Check out the recent interview Cowan-Dickie did on RugbyPass Offload from the car with Nowell slumbering alongside him on their way home from the airport after the round two England win in Italy.  

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Episode 23 – Jack Nowell, Ryan & Max on England Camp, Six Nations and Post Match Beers & Feeds
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Episode 23 – Jack Nowell, Ryan & Max on England Camp, Six Nations and Post Match Beers & Feeds

Now, though, Nowell no long has his friend along for this week’s training camp in Bristol, an absence that will continue for the remaining England games versus Ireland and France. “I’m gutted for him,” said Nowell when asked by RugbyPass at an England media briefing for his reaction to Cowan-Dickie’s injury setback. 

“He struggled a little bit with injury, a little bit like myself, but he is a very similar sort of player. He gets in the mix, in the thick of it quite often, and he is a hard bugger so I knew when he when down he had done something pretty bad. He normally doesn’t stay down.

“I know he will come back from it. I know he is for an operation in the next few days. I knew he had a few niggles at the start of the season as well, he got back from his ankle and he definitely got his place in the England squad – he is part of the leadership group now and is playing pretty much every week and is an unbelievable player, so to have that in your side is always very beneficial to the team.

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“He had got to this stage where he was playing some of his best rugby but unfortunately that is rugby. I know how it goes as well. You don’t always have the luck on your side. The plan is for him to be back towards the end of the season, which is good for Exeter, but I am sure he will definitely be back for the summer tour.”

England are bound for Australia in a few months, by which stage Nowell will hope to have a few more Test matches under his belt after getting into the team last month for the first time since October 2019. He was given just the dying minute off the bench in the round one Six Nations game at Scotland and was then concussed early in the round two match in Italy. 

However, the stars aligned last Saturday in London and he played the full 80 in the round three win over Wales, his first full-duration Test outing since the March 2019 championship draw with Scotland. “Massive,” he said when asked what it meant to him to play the entire match. “I was so gutted in that Italy game because I had finally got the nod to start and to play and I was right, this is the game in which I can really rip into. 

“There turned out to be quite a bit of space for running rugby, especially the way we are playing at the moment as a team. To go off after ten minutes I was gutted but Eddie (Jones) said straight after the game it was fine, we will get you back fit, just keep your head down and keep grafting. To get the nod again last week against Wales at Twickenham was awesome and to get the 80 was even better. 

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“I had just been desperate to get back involved, have an England shirt on and especially to play at Twickenham as well, I had my family there and it was packed out as well which made all the difference. I was relieved but more buzzing to actually have done it.”

Jones last month described Nowell as being in his best shape since way back in 2016 and the winger agreed with that assessment. “I think so. If I’m honest I struggled with sessions and training, not just for the country but at the club as well just to get myself going. I was 10kgs heavier than what I am now and I was always in a lot of pain, so that didn’t make it better for me. 

“By losing the weight I am feeling fit, feeling fresh, so it makes a massive difference in terms of the sessions and how I can perform in the sessions. I always knew that for me to get back Eddie wanted me to be back bouncy, to be sharp and to use my footwork. It has certainly helped me. 

“I have gone away from the gym side of it. It is hard when you are in rehab for such a long time to try and remember that your job is to play rugby, not to lift weights, so I am very happy with where I am at at the moment but I know I have got a bit more work to do.”

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