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'He's looking big, strong and quick' - Devoto tipped for England call-up

By Liam Heagney

Trending on RugbyPass

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It will be June 12 when we get a glimpse of how Eddie Jones is planning to fix the malaise that was the recent fifth-place Guinness Six Nations finish by England. With ten of his recent picks – plus the unwanted Sam Simmonds – away with the Lions this summer, he has plenty of scope to shape things up for the two-Test series featuring Twickenham matches against USA and Canada following an England A game versus Scotland A at Leicester. 

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International games during Lions summer are traditionally when the handbrake comes off and a wholesale raft of fresh-faced players get called into the mix. Take 2017. While the Lions were down in New Zealand battling to their Test series draw versus the All Blacks, Jones headed to Argentina for a two-Test series with an unfamiliar looking squad that contained a multitude of uncapped players. 

At that time names such as Will Collier, Nick Schonert, Harry Williams, Don Armand, Nick Isiekwe, Ben Curry, Tom Curry, Sam Underhill, Mark Wilson, Jack Maunder, Piers Francis, Alex Lozowski, Sam James, Harry Mallinder, Joe Marchant, Joe Cokanasiga, Nathan Earle and Denny Solomona all had zero caps. 

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Some have gone on and thrived, Tom Curry making the 2021 Lions and Sam Underhill starting with him in the 2019 World Cup final. But most others have either remained on the fringes or fallen off the international radar. Those successes and failures are why Jones’ latest squad announcement will generate excitement – what newcomers can go on and make it and who will get a sniff and take fright at what is required to succeed at Test level.

Ollie Devoto was one of the inexperienced but capped England players Jones took along for the Argentine ride in 2017. He was 23 at the time, about to leave Bath for Exeter when he made a May 2016 debut in the Twickenham friendly versus Wales, coming off the bench to play the closing five minutes in place of George Ford. 

Overlooked for selection in Argentina, he remained on the fringes until February 2020 when he bridged a five-year gap in between caps, coming off the bench again for Ford, this time in the Six Nations loss at France. Since then, though, Jones has looked elsewhere at other options such as Ollie Lawrence, but Devoto will surely have aspirations of seeing his name included next Wednesday for England given the calibre of his recent performances in the Exeter midfield as they seek to successfully defend their Gallagher Premiership title.   

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Exeter boss Rob Baxter has been pleased with what he has seen lately from his now 27-year-old inside centre. “Ollie is playing very well, he is looking very strong,” enthused the coach to RugbyPass when asked about the current form and England Test squad aspirations of Devoto, a player he has had under his wing for five seasons.

“He is looking big, strong, quick, taking the game into his own hands. He is wanting to be involved in the game and a lot of what we do does involve him. We are ticking along well as a team and we are sharing the workload pretty well which means our backs get on the ball a fair bit. 

“Our forwards are well known for the way they handle in their play and we tend to move more based on them in the five-metre, 22-metre zone but on the whole, he is just getting large involvements in the game. He is talking very well. He is one of those guys who is maturing and developing and experiencing big games all the time and he doing it in the right way, he is making those experiences help him be a better player. 

“I’m really pleased with his form and he is probably having one of his best seasons he has had for us. He might disagree. He might not feel he is on that but he is starting to really play like that and it would be great for him – he is certainly back on the international radar now and that is down to the quality of how he is playing.

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“That [international selection] is the expectation, you have to have that expectation that it [the summer series] widens the group out a little bit and that we have got a number of guys that may well be looked at in the England squad.”

 

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'He's looking big, strong and quick' - Devoto tipped for England call-up

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