Disappointment For Jack Nowell As the World Cup Countdown Begins

All eyes on 2019.

With the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand out of the way, and all of Warren Gatland’s squad heading back to their respective nations, attention is slowly beginning to turn to the Rugby World Cup in Japan, with the tournament, set to be held in 2019, world rugby’s next major event.

New Zealand have won back-to-back World Cups, with the All Blacks picking up the famous Webb Ellis trophy in 2011 and 2015 – the latter the perfect send off for the likes of retiring legends, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter. With a new-look New Zealand ending the summer with a 1-1 series draw with Gatland’s Lions, there is a real feeling that there is an opportunity for a major swing in power, with Australia and England two nations who will be desperate to stop the All Blacks’ domination.

Australia will want to topple their fierce rivals, but England, now under Eddie Jones, will be looking to free themselves of shame after they failed to make it out of a tricky group at their home World Cup in 2015. Jones’ side have undergone a phenomenal transformation, which has seen them become the most likely team in the world to challenge New Zealand’s world domination.

New Zealand remain overwhelming favourites to pick up a third consecutive World Cup trophy in 2019, with England and Australia slight outsiders. Presently, Oddschecker are offering a range of free bets and bonuses with different bookmakers for fans looking for a risk-free way to wager on the tournament in Japan.

A lot can change between now and the 2019 competition, and the upcoming Autumn Internationals will give us a better understanding of how well equipped the likes of England, Australia, and a number of smaller nations are to challenge the All Blacks. Jones and England, in particular, will be using the tests at the end of 2017 to continue to bolster their impressive record since the Australian’s appointment, whilst also making a statement to the rest of the world.

Jones will be looking at a host of different combinations between now and the World Cup in Japan, starting in the Autumn Internationals, where he will almost certainly be looking at a host of players who will be looking to break into his already trusted side.

One player who will be missing the autumn series is Jack Nowell, who has been a regular feature in England’s matchday 23 during Jones’ time as head coach. Nowell suffered a nasty fracture to his eye socket playing for his club side, Exeter Chiefs, against Newcastle Falcons back in early October, and after two operations were ruled out by Rob Baxter, despite initial hope, he could make an appearance towards the end of November.

Nowell’s absence is a huge blow for the Exeter Chiefs player, who now will have to once again prove himself to Jones and work his way back into contention for England when fully fit. The winger was a member of Gatland’s Lions squad that toured New Zealand over the summer, and has proved on numerous occasions just how effective he can be at the elite level, particularly in defence. However, the 24-year-old’s injury setback could prove to be costly, with others now gaining an opportunity to impress Jones in the first round of auditions for the World Cup.

Over the last two years, it has been Nowell, along with Anthony Watson and Elliot Daly, who have established themselves as Jones’ most trusted wingers, with the trio rewarded for their fine form with an eventual call-up to the Lions squad earlier in 2017. Watson and Daly were the two wingers trusted with the 14 and 11 jerseys respectively against the All Blacks, with the duo putting in a string of exceptional performances, whilst Nowell’s opportunities came from the bench after he was selected as the outside back to provide cover for his England teammates and Wales’ Liam Williams.

Jones will be expected to place similar faith in Watson and Daly in his England starting XV, with the likelihood that Mike Brown will continue at full-back. That will hand both Watson and Daly a chance to prove themselves to Jones in the Autumn Internationals and steal a march on Nowell in the race for selection leading up to the World Cup. However, Nowell’s absence will also open the door for others to work their way into Jones’ plans, with the Australian clearly a fan of Semesa Rokoduguni and Jonny May who were both retained in the squad to face Argentina in the first of the Autumn Internationals at Twickenham.

The duo will be looking to work their way into Jones’ thought process in Nowell’s absence and, whilst the 24-year-old will be watching on hoping England continue their fine form, he will have a watchful eye on those who are looking to replace him regularly in Jones’ 23-man squad.

It is not yet clear when Nowell will return for Exeter, with some reports suggesting that it will not be until December until the winger is fit enough to feature for Baxter’s side. However, when he does return, he must make an impact in the Aviva Premiership, building on the five appearances he made prior to his injury.

Nowell is not a winger like his England teammate, Watson, who has dazzling feet and the ability to score from anywhere on the pitch, which is reflected in his stats, with Nowell managing to score just one try in his five appearances this season. The 24-year-old’s stats are likely to make similar reading to last season’s, where the winger scored just four tries for Baxter’s side domestically.

Of course, Nowell was a part of the Exeter side that won their first ever Premiership crown earlier in 2017, with the England and Lions wing featuring for the Chiefs as they crept to a 23-20 victory over the London Wasps in a thrilling encounter at Twickenham. Nowell’s reputation as one of England’s best wingers has grown parallel to Exeter’s rise in the domestic competition, and deservedly, no matter what happens over the Autumn, the 24-year-old will remain in Jones’ thought process heading into 2018 and 2019.

Nowell was on the fringes of England’s World Cup squad in 2015, with Stuart Lancaster turning to other options ahead of the Exeter wing but, under Jones, it is a different story, with the Australian putting faith in the winger, which has been repaid. Nowell has now made 23 England appearances and scored 11 tries, with the winger’s win percentage exceptional at international level, standing at 82.60%.

However, the likelihood is, even if the Exeter wing was fit, the likes of Rokoduguni and May would have been given an opportunity to stake their claim at some point before 2019, but that will not hide Nowell’s disappointment of missing out this Autumn.

Regardless of personnel in Jones’ matchday squad and eventual pool of players that feature over the autumn, everybody associated with the senior group of players at England will know the importance of a successful series, as plans go into place ahead of the World Cup.

Right now, 2019 seems a lifetime away, but it will come around quickly, particularly for Jones and his playing squad, who will spend very little time together between now and the tournament. Every minute in training and every opportunity to take to the field will be viewed by Jones as an audition for the World Cup, as England know all too well, you can never have enough preparation.

Nowell will be gutted to be missing out of three vital games over the autumn, but the character of the Exeter Chief suggests he will bounce back from this setback and will surely be given the opportunity to claim his place in Jones’ XV.

Jason Hennessy

Jason Hennessy

Jason is the editor at RugbyLAD. Any queries big or small you can reach him at [email protected]
Jason Hennessy