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Eddie Jones' England weren't far away from making the grade.

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The 2am Saturday night texts Jonny Hill is sending Alex Sanderson

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Simon Galloway/PA Images via Getty Images)

Alex Sanderson is excited about the potential relationship that can be built with England lock Jonny Hill, the Sale director of rugby humorously revealing that he has already been getting some drunken text messages in the middle of the night from his new signing. It was last December when the Sharks announced that the respected Exeter second row would be joining them for the 2022/23 season.  

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He has since had his injury difficulties, a stubborn high ankle injury sustained against Harlequins sidelining him from club and country action since early January. Hill was included by Eddie Jones in numerous England squads over the course of the Guinness Six Nations, suggesting he was nearing a return to play, but that comeback has yet to materialise.

Hill was omitted from the 36-strong training squad named on Tuesday for a mini-camp in London next week, but his Exeter boss Rob Baxter explained that the forward would still be heading along to the assembly with Jack Nowell to get their injuries checked out by England.  

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The Breakdown | Episode 13 | Sky Sport NZ
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The Breakdown | Episode 13 | Sky Sport NZ

“As far as we are looking at it they [Nowell and Hill] will be with England for some rehab and for someone to have a look at them early next week,” said Baxter when asked about their prospects of making the July tour to Australia. “They are progressing pretty well at the moment. If that progression continues there is no reason why (not). 

“The tour is still a little way away. The last round of the Premiership isn’t until a couple of weeks and then you have got semi-final and final before the tour heads off. It’s still over a month before the tour heads off, so they still have got a decent amount of rehab time before those decisions need to be made.”

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Asked later on Tuesday by RugbyPass whether Sale have been monitoring the Hill layoff situation from afar given it now won’t be long until he is due to arrive in Manchester, Sanderson said: “I get the odd text on Saturday night at two o’clock in the morning, I seriously do which is nice. There is a degree of a psychological safety net already where he can text me pissed. That is perhaps the best way to gauge someone’s excitement. I know he is buzzing about coming up. 

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“The head of medical here has been touching base with him (about the injury) without being too invasive, so he is aware of where they are at in terms of rehabilitation and as soon as we can get him in, the week after the season finishes we will get him in, we will check him and we will send him away with a programme if we need to. So without stepping on toes we feel we are as informed as we can be.”

Having dined on Monday with England boss Jones after he visited the Sale training ground, what is the Sanderson hunch on whether Hill will tour Australia with his country before starting work at the Sharks? “Eddie keeps his cards close to his chest. I was out with him last night and we were talking about Jonny on what a good player he is and what a good lad he is. 

“I think if he is fit he will go. I do. More to the point, Eddie is building now, he is a year away (from the World Cup) so it’s so important to get some of the major leaders of your squad there for that building process. If he is going to be a leader, which I am sure he will be, they need him there right at the start.”

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