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Nowell tipped for England after hitting some 'highest physical stats'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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Rejuentated Exeter winger Jack Nowell has been tipped for an England squad call-up next Tuesday 27 months after he earned the last of his 34 caps when appearing against Argentina in Tokyo at the 2019 World Cup. The 28-year-old has had a rotten time since then, a variety of injuries keeping Test level selection from his grasp.  

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However, having seen Nowell start on the right wing in eleven of the Chiefs’ 14 Gallagher Premiership and Champions Cup matches so far this season, Exeter boss Rob Baxter reckons his player has surely caught the attention again of England boss Eddie Jones, especially as he recorded some of his highest physical stats in last weekend’s epic league tussle away to Harlequins.

“It wouldn’t surprise me at all,” said Baxter when asked if he fancied the fizzing Nowell for a call-up to the England squad for the upcoming Guinness Six Nations campaign which kicks off away to Scotland on February 5. “He is a highly thought of guy. He has got a lot of capabilities. It has been great to have him around for pre-season and have a lot of rugby, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him back in the England squad. 

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“He is playing very well. Jack can be a funny one: you can watch a game sometimes and think he has had a quieter game than you are used to and then you analyse it and you will notice that every time he is around the ball he has got a bit of go-forward or has created a counter ruck where we turn the ball over or he has created pressure in a kick chase. 

“You tick off his actions and you suddenly go, they are all good quality actions. He is actually doing a lot for us in defence that is probably not recognised, system-wise he is creating quite a lot of pressure on the opposition. I actually think he is performing very well and the next step I am hoping for is he is close to having one of those games where he really breaks open an opposition.

“We feel like we are close to that as a team anyway, that one of those games is coming, but we have still got a little bit of work to do just to really make sure those things happen. As a perfect example, Jack did hit some of his highest physical stats last week against Harlequins that he has hit for a long time.

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“Some of the physical ability is still right up there. I’m talking about (over) the last two or three years, so there certainly hasn’t been a drop off in what he is physically capable of doing despite what people might think because he has got a little bit older and he has had to deal with injuries. I am anticipating him having some very, very good performances in the near future.”

Asked to elaborate on the exact nature of these highest physical stats, Baxter added: “They are nothing to do with the actual contact elements of the game, they are the amounts of high speed running, the distance covered, the load that covering that distance is putting on him physically, it’s those kinds of markers, the markers you could actually say are just outside rugby collisions and tactics.

“They are actually just the physical capabilities that someone can produce in a game and his are better than a lot of the ones he has put together previously, so the physical capabilities are still all there. Really, we are just waiting to create the team game that will allow him to thrive.”

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