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'Now he is up and running I can't believe he is not now on the radar for the Lions as well'

By Liam Heagney

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Fit-again Jack Nowell has been tipped by Exeter boss Rob Baxter for a Lions tour call up if there is any back three injury trouble encountered by Warren Gatland’s squad on their upcoming tour to South Africa. The 28-year-old, who last played for England at the 2019 World Cup, had endured a frustrating injury-hit season until last weekend. 

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Victory in last October’s Gallagher Premiership final was followed by an operation on toe ligaments and his involvement this season has been restricted to just four league appearances. It wasn’t until mid-April when he finally returned to the team but he suffered another setback after playing three times in four weekends. 

That layoff left him without a match for six weeks but Baxter backed his England player to slot in at full-back last Saturday in place of the benched Stuart Hogg, the Scot who is expected to wear the No15 shirt when the Lions open their Test series against the Springboks in Cape Town on July 24. 

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Nowell enjoyed a stormer versus Sale, scoring two tries and excelling under the high ball to not only leave him primed to start this weekend’s Premiership final versus Harlequins but to also potentially feature for England in their summer Test series when the early weeks of the Lions tour are going on in South Africa.

Having toured with the Lions in 2017, Nowell has previously shown Warren Gatland he has what it takes at that level as he was capped twice in the drawn three-game series and a second Lions call-up is something Baxter wouldn’t be the least bit surprised about happening given how good Nowell was on his latest club return.

“As long as Jack is fit and able to play you will see a good game from him,” he enthused. “That’s the truth, that is the player he is, the character he is. That was why we got him back on the field when we did. He has done it over and over again (coming back from injury) but even I was impressed at the weekend. That is just typical of him. He talked in the weeks preceding that he was going to be ready, he was feeling good, he was pushing hard. 

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“He gave us a lot of confidence in the way that he trained in the couple of weeks before the game and then he delivered. It is what you expect from him and now he has put himself right back in the shop window with that performance. Hopefully, he will follow that through in the final this week. Then obviously there is the opportunity if England decides to do that and now he is up and running I can’t believe he is not now on the radar for the Lions as well. The whole summer could really open up for him now based on performances like that.”

Baxter added: “We have definitely approached this injury in the right way… and everything seems to have aligned. Jack was an incredible driving force last week in the club. People wouldn’t understand it unless they saw it and I have got to give him great credit for that… some of those guys have been exceptional the last couple of weeks in leading the team on and off the field and Jack has certainly been one of those guys.” 

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'Now he is up and running I can't believe he is not now on the radar for the Lions as well'

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