'Positive news': The England update Jonny Hill fans have waited for
England have revealed that Jonny Hill came through unscathed from two days of full training with them, putting him in line for a potential recall for the March 12 Guinness Six Nations match at home to Ireland. A starter in all three of his country’s Autumn Nations Series games, the Exeter lock missed all three February matches in the championship due to a high ankle issue sustained on club duty in January.
This unavailability of Hill resulted in Eddie Jones naming three different second row combinations this year, pairing Maro Itoje with Nick Isiekwe in Scotland, picking Charlie Ewels with Isiekwe in Italy and then going with Ewels alongside Itoje at home to Wales last weekend.
However, there will now be hopes that the Itoje/Hill combination that started every England match in the November series could now be reprised when the Irish visit Twickenham in Six Nations round four.
Hill and Tom Curry weren’t officially named in the 25-man squad England announced on Wednesday for this week’s three-day training camp in Bristol. Instead, the RFU media release accompanying the squad announcement stated: “Jonny Hill will continue his rehab in camp and Tom Curry will also be with the squad working through his graduated return to play protocols.”
But the Exeter lock has done more than just continue his rehab, England assistant Richard Cockerill revealing the promising prognosis when asked how Hill and Cury were getting along this week as unofficial members at the Bristol camp.
“Tom is going through the normal return to play protocols as any player would so we expect him to come through that and be ready for training next week, and Jonny Hill has taken a full part in training both yesterday and today, so positive news on him. That is exactly where they are at. If he [Hill] comes through training fully with no reactions there is a good chance he will be available for selection.”
Numerous players involved in last week’s preparations to face Wales weren’t called up for this week’s training squad, the likes of Elliot Daly, Joe Marler and George Ford three players capped against Wales who are now back with their clubs. Cockerill insisted their absence wasn’t an indication of how the squad will look next week for the Irish game. “No, not at all. It’s about keeping players sharp.
“Eddie sees it individual by individual and guys need game time and when it suits what they need and what we need then the guys are released to play. It keeps the clubs happy because they get their players and Eddie releases them because he thinks it would be good for them to get some game time under their belt.
“Eddie has those discussions with those individual players and if he feels it is better for them to go back to their clubs and play, they go back and play which is good for everyone.”
One England starter against Wales who won’t be returning to the Test team fold in the coming weeks, though, is Luke Cowan-Dicki. Exeter confirmed on Thursday morning that the hooker has a significant knee ligament injury and will require surgery, paving the way for Jamie George to become the likely starting No2.
“Jamie is a fantastic player. He has proved that for the last ten years or so. He did a great job when he came on at the weekend and I am sure he looking forward to doing that again,” explained Cockerill.
“Disappointed for him [Cowan-Dickie] and Exeter and obviously ourselves. He is a really important player to the team, a leader of the group as well. It’s a bit of a blow to the team but we have got good cover and it’s the game, isn’t it, guys get injured and you have to deal with someone and someone else gets an opportunity.”
Asked what was the England focus coming out of their narrow win over Wales, Cockerill added: “Lots of good things, a really big start to the game, got a good lead. The thing for us is then making sure that we control games when we have control of the game and not let teams back in.
“Wales are a good side. We knew they would come back at some point and they did that, so just controlling the game at key moments and also taking our opportunities. We felt that we left some opportunities out there. We want to be aggressive in our attack and we want to take teams on. Parts of that we did and parts of that we can be better at. That’s a key part for us this week.”
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