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What London Irish have made of England excluding Hassell-Collins

By Liam Heagney
Ollie Hassell-Collins on 2023 Six Nations duty with England (Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)

London Irish boss Declan Kidney has given his verdict on how Ollie Hassell-Collins has reacted to his recent England rejection. The 24-year-old was handed his Test debut as the left-wing starter in the opening round Guinness Six Nations match at home to Scotland last month and he followed that by getting the No11 shirt again for the fixture versus Italy eight days later.

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However, a knee injury ruled him out of squad selection for the round three assignment away to Wales and despite coming back to score a try for London Irish in their Gallagher Premiership win at Newcastle on Sunday, it was not enough to tempt Steve Borthwick into recalling him to the England squad for the upcoming match against France.

Anthony Watson took Hassell-Collins’ place against Wales and became a first half try-scorer at the Principality. That potency now has him primed for selection to face the French while his rival for the Test jersey will instead be making do with an appearance for London Irish in their Premiership match on Sunday at home to Sale.

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Director of rugby Kidney was thrilled that Hassell-Collins became the first London Irish-based player to start for England in a decade, but he has been equally delighted with his player’s reaction to now being excluded by Borthwick.

“Players in the past thought they would have had to leave to get that (England) recognition,” enthused Kidney. “The two games, he loved it. He didn’t get his hands on the ball as often as he would have hoped but that is Ollie, he just loves playing with the ball in his hands.

“He turned up well for work the last day, scored a try down the wing, beat a (Newcastle) man that you had to have confidence with the way that he beat him, and he did that. There was nothing wrong with their defender, it was just Ollie had a good run at it. Like I say, he enjoys playing with the ball in hand and the professionalism of him, the way he turned up for work up in Newcastle – he was obviously disappointed that he wasn’t included in the squad for this week, but he is knuckling down to work just as much as ever which is a great sign of professionalism.

“He knows he is there or thereabouts now (with England). I’m sure with his conversations with Steve and the other coaches that he will be working on little aspects of his game to get him back into the squad as soon as possible.”

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What has been the feedback from Hassell-Collins to Kidney about his England breakthrough? “Ollie would be a man of few words. He just really enjoyed it. All rugby is the same but every step you go up it happens quicker, faster, harder, tougher. He enjoyed the whole experience, and he is mad keen to get back involved again. He just had a good experience with it.”

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