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'It was the right package for him at the time'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

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Exeter have admitted they have no cause for complaint that Jonny Hill hasn’t made it back in time from injury to feature in this year’s Six Nations with England. A starter in all three Autumn Nations Series games, the second row turned up at pre-championship training in Brighton with a high ankle stress issue. 


England must have been optimistic that the problem would come right in time for Hill to become available for selection as they decided to keep him rehabbing in camp throughout last month’s three match weeks and the two fallow training weeks.  

Assistant coach Richard Cockerill even spoke optimistically last week about Hill, announcing that he came through two full days of training in Bristol. However, Eddie Jones finally cut his losses last Sunday night, omitting the forward from the 36-man squad he asked to assemble for next Saturday’s round four match versus Ireland. 

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An RFU statement at the time read: “Jonny Hill, who has been undertaking rehab on a low limb stress injury since he arrived into camp, has returned to his club Exeter Chiefs for the remainder of the tournament.”

Club boss Baxter had no issues with England, though, that the rehab on their watch hadn’t come right – but he added that it could be some time yet before Hill makes it back on the pitch to play his first rugby since getting hurt in a January 8 Gallagher Premiership match at Harlequins. 


“It is a difficult thing,” said Baxter when asked by RugbyPass for his thought on why Hill rehabbed with England for that long rather than look to get his ankle right at home in Exeter. “If you think there is a possibility of someone becoming involved later in the tournament you do also want them about picking up on calls and any tactical changes that are happening in the meetings etc. 


“It is probably as much that as anything else because he was involved in the team in the autumn internationals, they are probably looking for a degree of consistency around the set-piece and how they are running things and probably thought there was a chance of him returning by the end of the tournament. 

“That has gone by the wayside now but it’s always a difficult balance, it’s always a difficult one between does a guy stay at his club and rehab and they potentially miss out on that meetings or alignment with the team. I just think it was one of those things. England were very open with us. 

“They asked us could he stay in or whether we wanted him to return for his rehab. I spoke with Jonny, he was happy to continue his rehab with England and stay in touch with the things that were happening. I just think it was the right package for him at the time.”

With his hopes dashed of being fit to face Ireland and France in the remaining games, Hill is now back at Exeter looking to put his England frustrations behind him. “We just had a quick catch up to see how the legs are feeling and where he thinks he is heading,” continued Baxter.


“Jonny is pretty positive about it, he is hoping kind of three, four weeks (before he is ready to play) but it will be based on where he feels week by week. It’s not something you can really put a time stamp on and go, ‘this is a two-week, three-week injury’. There is a bit of feel about it, how he feels with landing, loading and running. That will determine a lot on where he is able to go and how much he is able to do.”

Meanwhile, England hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie had his operation on Monday to mend the knee injury sustained in the round three win over Wales. “It has gone as well as can be expected,” reported Baxter. “He has got some significant damage there. It is going to be touch and go whether he features again this season.”


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