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One distinct aspect of Welsh play fed into England picking Nowell

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

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Jack Nowell lasted only 16 minutes in his first England start in 28 months in the February 13 win over Italy, but he still did enough in that brief cameo to justify getting chosen again to wear the No11 jersey when Wales visit Twickenham this Saturday. 

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The Exeter winger took an early knock to his head at the Stadio Olimpico in the Guinness Six Nations game and the decision by referee Damon Murphy to briefly allow him to play on before he was taken away for a head injury assessment was one of the main talking points to emerge from that match. 

Nowell spent last week back in England camp, chosen as part of the 25-strong squad named by Jones for the fallow week training gathering in London. This was where he began his progress through the return to play protocols and his recovery has now resulted in his selection to face the Welsh in this weekend’s game. 

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It represents a huge vote of confidence in Nowell, who was only sent on an 80th-minute replacement for the opening round defeat to Scotland as Jones has chosen Joe Marchant and Max Malins to start that match on the wings. 

Marchant was switched into midfield in Rome to accommodate the inclusion of Nowell, but the omission on Tuesday evening of the Harlequins player from the reduced 25-man England squad paved the way for Jones to give Nowell his backing for the second successive match. Marchant, though, was dramatically recalled to the squad on Thursday night when chosen No12 Manu Tuilagi was ruled out injured and that midfield vacancy won’t be filled until pre-game Saturday.     

“Jack has had good training,” assured Jones when asked why he was encouraged to go with Nowell in what is a make-or-break game for England’s title chances. “We picked him because he was in good form. We want that work rate type winger which is Jack. He started the game well against Italy and unfortunately because of circumstances missed the rest of the game, but he has come back, trained really well and he will give us something a bit different. And particularly he is a very physical winger and we know the Welsh backs are particularly physical.”

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Charlie Ewels was another player promoted from the Murrayfield bench to start at Stadio Olimpico who has now held onto his starting berth against the Welsh as Jones elected to drop Nick Isiekwe to the bench to accommodate the return of skipper Courtney Lawes, who starts at No6 with Maro Itoje joining Ewels in the second row.   

“Good work rate,” said Jones when asked for his thinking regarding keeping Ewels as a starter. “He has been really working on his defensive part of the game, been doing a lot of early morning sessions with the terminator, Nick Isiekwe

“They have been working out together early in the mornings before breakfast, working on their defensive skills. and we are pleased with the way both those young guys are going and (Ollie) Chessum. There is nothing between then but Charlie has got a little bit of an edge and experience. He is a very good lineout student, so he helps Maro in that way in running the lineouts.”

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