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Why England chose Dolly, the hooker Sale cut loose over the phone

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

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It’s been quite the year for Nic Dolly, the 22-year-old from Sydney who is set to win a debut cap for England this Saturday after Eddie Jones named him on the bench for the Autumn Nations Series finale versus the Springboks. Injury to Jamie George opened the door for his inclusion, Jamie Blamire getting promoted into the starting XV and Dolly getting asked to take over the bench hooker duties. 

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The selection caps an extraordinary rise for the Australian who represented England at age-grade level only to find his progress at club level limited in recent years. Having initially honed his skills at youths level in New South Wales, he joined Sale in 2017 and was quickly included in the England U18s. 

He then went on to play age-grade U20s but his club action was transient, Dolly making loan appearances for Sale FC, Rotherham Titans and Jersey Reds before getting released by the Sharks and then arriving into the Coventry squad for the start of the delayed Championship season last March.

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Freddie Burns on whether the Springboks will target Maro Itoje and Marcus Smith
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Freddie Burns on whether the Springboks will target Maro Itoje and Marcus Smith

Then came a career-changing call. Leicester were short at hooker and the emergency recruit has rapidly gone from strength to strength, scoring six tries in seven appearances this season to help the Tigers lead the way at the top of the Gallagher Premiership.

“He is a similar story to Dylan Hartley,” enthused Eddie Jones when asked about the selection of Dolly, the uncapped hooker, on the England bench to face the Springboks. “So we had Dylan Hartley and Chris Robshaw and James Haskell in today [Thursday] to watch training and chat with the blokes over lunch because they have been a big part of this team and Dylan and Dolly have got very similar stories. 

“They both left their country to come and try their hand in another part of the world. Both had a heritage to play for England. Dolly has been at Sale, was told he wasn’t required by phone call, was going to play for Coventry. Leicester had some problems with their hooker and he has taken his chance and has been impressive. 

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“He is a good tough player, wants to learn. He will give you everything he has got and that is all we are expecting on Saturday, He gives us everything he has got.”

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