- Wing wary of resting on his laurels
- Nowell on “trying to read what is going to happen two phases ahead”
Self-reflection does not sit easily with Jack Nowell. Brimming with infectious energy and enthusiasm, the young Exeter Chief is far too busy looking ahead to get distracted by the universal acclaim which has greeted his first Test starts in the 2014 RBS 6 Nations. It is this refreshing, resolute mind-set that helped him get over a difficult baptism in Paris nine days ago.
With 25 minutes gone at the Stade de France, Nowell had already made a couple of errors and England were 16-3 down. However, he grew in stature impressively – eventually making 14 tackles without a single miss and taking six out of his eight carries over the gainline – to became a prominent figure as the visitors surged back into the lead.
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Another enterprising display followed on Saturday as Scotland were brushed aside 20-0, Nowell setting up Mike Brown for the decisive try in the second half after an explosive step had comprehensively beaten opposing centre Matt Scott.
And while social media, local papers and the pubs of his native Newlyn have been saturated with admiration, the 20 year-old Junior World Championship-winner is reluctant to indulge in any sort of self-evaluation during preparations for Ireland’s visit to Twickenham on February 22.
“I don’t think we’re going to use this week as a chilled week,” he explains from St George’s Park in Burton-on-Trent, where Stuart Lancaster is holding training for his squad this week.
“We’re trying to improve our performance from the Scotland game, we’ve got a lot to get done and a lot to improve on before Ireland.
“If you relax and switch off you are going to go backwards a bit. We get the chance at the end of this week to go back home for a long weekend and then we’re straight back up to Pennyhill again.”
Conceding that he took a little while to get accustomed to international arena thanks to a chaotic, cacophonous start in Paris, Nowell is evidently excited about the prospect of derailing Ireland’s Grand Slam aspirations at Twickenham with a second successive RBS 6 Nations victory.
Suitably for a young man who may well be a big part of England’s future at Rugby World Cup 2015 and beyond, a large part of his game also revolves around anticipation.
Nowell’s support lines caused Scotland huge problems at Murrayfield this weekend. In the lead-up to Luther Burrell’s try he attracted defenders by being on Danny Care’s shoulder before luring a tackler off Owen Farrell for the fly half’s clean-break just before half time. Finally, Nowell’s assist for Brown came on the left touchline – some 70 metres from his starting position on the right wing.
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This all adds up to an all-action style that chimes perfectly with the fast-paced, ambitious gameplan that England are looking to impart this tournament. But, as Lancaster’s latest recruit explains, a good deal of thought and trust is also required.
“Last season there were a couple of instances [for Exeter Chiefs] where I came off my wing when, if I had stayed there, I would have ended up scoring a try,” he continues. “It’s about trying to read that it is going to happen a couple of phases down the line.
“Having a good relationship with the nines and tens helps you because then you can try and read what you are going to do. After that it’s a bit of a gamble.
“[Before Farrell’s break against Scotland] one of their props actually smashed me [without the ball], but if he hadn’t and had gone onto Faz, I was through the gap. As it was, Faz got through himself and fed Luther, who nearly scored.”
Ending with a glance to what would be his first international on home soil, Nowell finishes in appropriately eager mood, relishing a first chance to excel in front of an English crowd.
“It’s going to be massive,” he smiles. “Ireland have had a good couple of games and we’ve had a good couple of games ourselves, although we didn’t get the result we wanted against France. We built from that in Scotland and it’s going to be a great contest.