How Jonny Hill is coping with his 'ego shock' England rejection
Sale have shared their thoughts on the shock to the ego suffered in recent weeks by Jonny Hill with his exclusion by England. The lock had become a mainstay of the Test team pack under Eddie Jones since his October 2020 debut in Rome, filling the vacancy left by the retired George Kruis. His absence because of injury throughout the entire 2022 Guinness Six Nations was viewed as one of the main reasons why the England pack lacked punch in a campaign where just two of five matches were won.
Hill pitched up fit for the three-Test tour series win in Australia and went on to start all four matches in the Autumn Nations Series, but that consistent selection by Jones in all seven of the Australian’s final block of matches in charge of England hasn’t carried over into the new Steve Borthwick era.
The 29-year-old second row was first given a jolt to his system when cut from the squad reduced from 36 to 29 midway through the week leading up to the round one loss versus Scotland. Ollie Chessum, the young gun that Borthwick had nurtured at Leicester, became the chosen one with Nick Isiekwe providing the bench backup. That same selection was then repeated for the round two win over Italy.
Back in Manchester, Hill made his 13th club appearance of the season for Sale in last weekend’s Gallagher Premiership defeat at Northampton and he is now primed to make a 14th this Sunday at Exeter, his old club, after Borthwick opted to start Chessum versus Wales on Saturday, with the fit-again Courtney Lawes now the nominated bench cover.
So, how has Hill been coping with the first major rejection of his England career? “He took on the pack really well, just wanted to pour his energies into trying to drive the things that Steve wants from him, a physical edge to the lot that he is,” explained Alex Sanderson, the Sale director of rugby, to RugbyPass about the return of Hill to his club colours.
“(England) Talked a lot about lowering his body height, so just focused on a bit of that, but really it was the pack’s performance that he wanted to drive and I thought he did really well at the weekend for that, the variety of the driving mauls, peels and shift drives that we had at the weekend with a man down, and the pack kept us in the game.
“When you ask him (how he is feeling), he is pretty happy-go-lucky. Jonny is like, ‘Yeah, you know, I’ll get it right and I need to do this and prove them wrong, prove that I’m good enough’. But I think inside he is hurting a bit.
“At this point leading up to the World Cup he wanted to really make a stake and a claim that he was the man for Steve and clearly, at the moment, he is not. He’s not too far away, we know that. He has got his best rugby to play but he is putting on a very brave face.
“It’s not that you can see it around the place, he is not moping around. He is still giving energy and everything else. But, as is natural there, is a shock to his ego and there is a re-framing in terms of what he needs to do to get back in.”