Nowell makes Final pledge
It was an hour after the final whistle and Jack Nowell was still slumped in his changing spot in the home dressing room at Twickenham.
So often a victor at the home of English Rugby, now the Cornishman was slowly coming to terms with the lowest ebb of his career to date.
Having partied the night away 12 months earlier having helped the Exeter Chiefs to a maiden Premiership Rugby crown, now Nowell and his team-mates were wiping away the tears having surrendered their title to Saracens in the end of season showpiece.
This Saturday, the 26-year-old back returns to HQ with his fellow Chiefs for a fourth successive final appearance where, you guessed it, reigning European and Premiership champions Saracens once again lie in wait.
A year on from the heartbreak of losing out to the Londoners 27-10, the England and British Lions star wants redemption after Rob Baxter’s side booked their place in the final with a dominant 42-12 win over Northampton Saints at the weekend.
The Devonians advanced to the capital with a powerful six-try victory, which came hot on the heels of them finishing the regular season top of the pile for the second successive year, eight points clear of next-best Saracens.
💬 “We’ve shown how to play against them this year” 💬
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) May 29, 2019
But as Nowell was quick to stress post-match at Sandy Park, the Chiefs have won nothing for their seasonal efforts so far – and now they must ready themselves for their toughest assignment yet.
“Losing last year, feeling the hurt and looking around the changing room and seeing all the boys upset, crying, I sat there and realised the year ahead was going to be a different one,” said Nowell. “We haven’t worked so hard to put ourselves in this position to go and lose it again.
“If we compare it to that first year in the final when we lost, I think all of us were just happy to be there. We then won it the following year, which was amazing, and then we lost again last year and that hurt a lot. Not just in my Chiefs career but playing rugby, that defeat was the worst and I came away thinking I don’t ever want to feel like that again.”
It’s a feeling that many others within the Chiefs ranks have expressed, particularly in recent weeks, and now they are ready to right the wrongs.
Saracens, however, are the acid test in terms of club rugby and as they demonstrated only a few weeks ago against Leinster in the final of the Champions Cup, they have the game plan, the personnel and the fight to go all the way to glory.
“They are the best in England, the best in Europe, it’s where we want to be and where we are trying to drives ourselves to,” added Nowell. “We felt we let ourselves down in the Champions Cup this year, but they are a team that has done it and put themselves up there. It would be special to do a job on them.
“Anyone who knows rugby and who watches them, they know what Sarries are all about. They are good in attack, good in defence, but at the same time so are we. It’s going to be a big arm-wrestle come the weekend, but hopefully we can come out on top.”
In what has now become a regular match-up between the two current heavyweights of English rugby, Nowell admits there is little that either side don’t know about their rivals.
“I think we’ve played each other enough now to know what both teams will bring to the game,” continued Nowell. “We’ll look at them like we do any other side, but the most important thing is that we focus mainly on ourselves and what we want to bring to the game. If we do that, play well, then we give ourselves a great chance.”