Exeter have won the European Champions Cup and Premiership double this month and they have won over the England head coach, Eddie Jones, who added two of their forwards to his squad this week.
Luke Cowan-Dickie was the only Chiefs forward who was in the 2019 World Cup squad but, as England prepare for the Six Nations finale against Italy in Rome on Saturday, he has been joined by the prop Harry Williams and the second-row Jonny Hill as Jones looks to replicate Exeter’s ability to turn pressure into points.
“We looked at the maul right through lockdown and we understand how important it has become,” the England forwards coach, Matt Proudfoot, said. “Watching Exeter play is to appreciate that if you get three opportunities in the opposition 22, you need to take them all.
“Jonny Hill has done well since he joined us. You almost expect a young guy to come in and be a bit shy but he has really imposed himself. We had a scrummaging session today and I asked the front-rows what he was like. They said he could scrum and he clearly wants to make an impression.
“What impressed me about Harry Williams was the increase in his work rate after lockdown. What I like about him is that he does not look to lock down a scrum but build dominance. He has more flexibility in his game now and he plays in a team that pushes attacking opportunities whichever 22 they are in.”
Williams won the last of his 17 caps against Wales during August 2019 in a World Cup warm-up but missed out on Japan when Jones decided to take only two specialist tightheads, Kyle Sinckler and Dan Cole.
“I do not use that disappointment as fuel because it is not healthy to look back or too far forward,” said the 29-year-old, who made a couple of appearances for Wasps before joining Exeter. “What motivates me is the moment, the elation of being picked and making my family proud. Lockdown was important for my career because I focused on the improvements I had to make. It reinvigorated my love of training and freshened me up.”
England are looking to clinch their third Six Nations title in five years under Jones while Wales, who are likely to be without the scrum-half Rhys Webb who is having a knee injury assessed, need to beat Scotland in Llanelli to avoid their worst campaign since 2007. “We are under no illusions, it is a must-win game,” the attack coach, Steven Jones, said.
Six Barbarians players, including the former England captain Chris Robshaw, will not face police action after breaking coronavirus regulations while out drinking in the week leading up to their match against England at Twickenham which was cancelled after their unauthorised trip from the team hotel was uncovered.