Exeter Chiefs star Jack Nowell has spoken of his delight after he was today named in Stuart Lancaster’s 34-man England training squad ahead of the opening RBS Six Nations clash with Wales.
Having missed last summer’s tour to New Zealand due to knee surgery, Lancaster brought the talented Cornishman back into his training squad for the Autumn internationals against New Zealand, South Africa, Samoa and Australia.
And although the 21-year-old trained for all four weeks with the Red Rose country at their Pennyhill Park base, he was unable to add to his tally of five international caps.
The first of those, however, came a year ago when the former Truro College youngster was handed his Six Nations debut against France in Paris.
Nowell went onto feature in all five of last season’s Six Nations fixtures for England, including in Italy where he bagged his maiden try for his country in their 52-11 victory in Rome.
Now fully firing following some detailed surgery on his troublesome knee, Nowell says he is fully focused on getting back amongst Lancaster’s grand plans, particularly with the Rugby World Cup looming large on the horizon as well.
"I’m very pleased to be back in the squad," said Nowell. "But the thing I’m most pleased about is getting back from injury and the trust Stuart has put in me. As he said previously, we would all have to fight for our positions again and I’m ready for that."
Frustrated at times by his eagerness to get back to Chiefs action, Nowell knows the cautious approach from the Exeter medical staff has in fact helped him rediscover his form, which has included a number of tries already this season.
"It’s been a long 12 months and I was itching to get back every day," he explained. "At the same time, I’m thankful for the time and effort everybody had put into me in terms of my rehab. I’ve come back strong, I’m playing well and it’s nice to have two legs again on the field.
"Looking back I needed that time to rest, but the operation was a huge success and I’ve come back more confident and knowing that my knee is not sore anymore."
Getting back into the England starting XV, though, will be no formality for Nowell. The form of Jonny May and Anthony Watson has been impressive both for club and country, but the Exeter man says he is determined to attack the cause with everything he has got.
"It’s a big step up for sure," said Nowell. "Anthony Watson played very well in the Autumn, as did a few others, but I know Stuart will give us all a fair chance, so I just have to attack it as best I can."
A year ago, Nowell was the so-called ‘New Kid on the Block’ ahead of the 2014 Six Nations campaign, but having experienced the thrills and spills of international rugby, the gifted Chief is more confident about what lies ahead.
He continued: "Yes, I’m more confident, but I don’t think things have changed too much. It will be the same as last year in a lot of ways, so I’m not going to change as a player or as a person. I’m in the squad, which is great, and I want a start position the same as everyone else. The big thing Stuart and the coaches will want us to do when we meet us is attack everything and fight for our positions, so that’s exactly what I will do."
Whilst Nowell was selected in Lancaster’s senior squad, fellow Chiefs Luke Cowan-Dickie, Dave Ewers, Henry Slade and Thomas Waldrom have all been rewarded for their impressive displays this season with a place in the England Saxons squad, who will also meet next Monday in London ahead of their upcoming clash with the Irish Wolfhounds in Cork.