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Why England like 'really good adjustment' made by recalled Nowell

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

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England boss Eddie Jones has followed the lead of Exeter coach Rob Baxter by heaping praise on Jack Nowell for the way he had finessed himself to become more robust for rugby the older he is getting. The 28-year-old won the last of his 36 Tests in October 2019 at the World Cup in Japan but his availability since then was blighted by injuries and lack of consistent form.

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Nowell, though, has lately reevaluated his approach to rugby and altered his lifestyle to help get him back to playing consistently with Exeter. This determination impressed club coach Baxter, who last week said it wouldn’t be a surprise if his winger earned an England recall more than two years after he last represented his country. 

Baxter’s hunch was on the money, Jones including Nowell in the 36-strong England squad he has chosen to meet up in Brighton next Monday to begin preparations for the Guinness Six Nations opener away to Scotland on February 5.

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“Jack definitely looks more like a rugby player and less like a bodybuilder,” enthused an impressed Jones when quizzed on his decision to bring Nowell back into the England fold. “As you get older, you have to train differently. 

“For our experienced players, that’s the challenge they have had. Sometimes habits of young players don’t suit you as you get older and Jack has made a really good adjustment. He’s got the bounce back in his step. 

“Watching him play last Saturday night (for Exeter) against Glasgow, he was bouncing out of tackles, he had a huge work rate, a huge appetite for the ball. That’s the sort of player we remember. We have not really seen him since 2018. It has been a long time between drinks and maybe him not drinking so much will allow the times between drinks not to be so long in the future.”

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Last week, Baxter explained: “Jack is a highly thought of guy. He has got a lot of capabilities. It has been great to have him around for pre-season and have a lot of rugby, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him back in the England squad.

“He is playing very well. Jack can be a funny one: you can watch a game sometimes and think he has had a quieter game than you are used to and then you analyse it and you will notice that every time he is around the ball he has got a bit of go-forward or has created a counter ruck where we turn the ball over or he has created pressure in a kick chase. 

“You tick off his actions and you suddenly go, they are all good quality actions. He is actually doing a lot for us in defence that is probably not recognised, system-wise he is creating quite a lot of pressure on the opposition. I actually think he is performing very well and the next step I am hoping for is he is close to having one of those games where he really breaks open an opposition.

“We feel like we are close to that as a team anyway, that one of those games is coming, but we have still got a little bit of work to do just to really make sure those things happen. As a perfect example, Jack did hit some of his highest physical stats last week against Harlequins that he has hit for a long time.

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“Some of the physical ability is still right up there. I’m talking about (over) the last two or three years, so there certainly hasn’t been a drop off in what he is physically capable of doing despite what people might think because he has got a little bit older and he has had to deal with injuries. I am anticipating him having some very, very good performances in the near future.”

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