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The Jack Willis situation: 'It was a pretty smart play by England'

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Wasps boss Lee Blackett has hailed the England decision to call the fit-again Jack Willis into their squads for the recent round four and five matches in the Guinness Six Nations. The fully mended back-rower, who is back in harness following the brutal ACL injury sustained in the February 2021 win over Italy at Twickenham, was just two games into his club comeback when the surprise call came from Pennyhill Park for the 25-year-old to rejoin Eddie Jones’ squad. 

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Willis trained with England for two days of their round four matchweek against Ireland before returning to Wasps to play Northampton in the Gallagher Premiership on March 13. Having come through his first full 80 minutes in that match in more than a year, Willis was then named in the round five England matchweek squad versus France. 

Again, he was only with them for two days, Jones opting not to include Willis in the reduced squad of 28 that was taken to Paris for a match that was eventually lost 13-25 last Saturday night. However, Wasps are grateful for what the England call has done for their forward and they are now hopeful they can reap the benefits of this confidence booster in the weeks ahead as they look to finish high up the Premiership table.

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“It has given confidence. When you are out for that long you are constantly thinking about coming back and playing for your club and that confidence that he knows England isn’t that far away, it was a pretty smart play by England,” reckoned Blackett when quizzed by RugbyPass about what the call-up did for Willis.

“I know it may have only been for a couple of days but to just pull him into the environment just gives him that little bit more and hopefully we can take advantage of that at Wasps for the rest of the season. 

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“He said he didn’t expect it after the Northampton game to get that call. But to do go down, they didn’t actually do that much training but to be down there just gave him that little bit more. He is so driven anyway, it’s hard to find more but when you just look at him, it meant a lot just to be included and go down there. I’m pretty sure Jack will be focused on playing really well for Wasps and he hopefully can get on that summer tour.”

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Wasps are currently ninth in the Premiership, twelve points off the playoffs with six matches remaining – a schedule that commences with a home game this Saturday versus Newcastle. Blackett can’t wait for the rejuvenated Willis to wield even more of an influence as the weeks go by. 

“Definitely. Even last season I think we played six games with him and we won all six. Eighteen months ago, when we got to the final, he was player of the year. He is a quality player and with anyone coming back from their ACL, Jack is only going to get better. Most times when people come back from that type of injury it takes them a couple of months to get back to their best, so I expect to see him getting better and better each week.”

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