Jack Nowell has revealed he wants to follow his Exeter and England teammate Sam Simmonds in moving abroad and said he could do so next year with his Chiefs contract up at the end of the season.
Simmonds, 27, will join Montpellier next season and, though it is not clear whether he will be eligible for the World Cup given Rugby Football Union rules dictate that players based outside England cannot be selected, Eddie Jones expressed confidence that he would be last week.
Nowell is two years older than Simmonds but is in a similar position where the pull of the international jersey will not be as great after the World Cup. He finds himself at a club that, by the admission of the director of rugby, Rob Baxter, is struggling to hold on to senior England players on bumper contracts within a reduced salary cap given the number of club matches they miss.
Considering that landscape, Simmonds seems likely to be joined by a number of England players in moving abroad with Manu Tuilagi, Anthony Watson and Kyle Sinckler all also out of contract as well as Nowell, who has been linked with a move to Clermont. “One day that’s something I would like to do obviously if my body allows me,” Nowell told TalkSport. “Whether it’s next year or the year after I’m not too sure yet but I’m in a position where I’ve always been in contract with the club and this is the first year where I’ve found myself not in contract next year. For me there is a lot to play for and a lot still to go. The only thing I’m focusing on at the moment is playing well for the club.”
Nowell and Simmonds spent Monday morning, along with the rest of the squad, being put through their paces on an assault course at Thorpe Park on the first full day of a mini-camp before England’s autumn fixtures – all part of Jones’s determination to make the group more cohesive and able to adapt in what he described last week as the “most volatile rugby environment we have ever seen”.
Expanding on that, Jones suggested that a flurry of cards and injuries – including those to the head – means his players must improve their ability to react in the heat of the moment.
Indeed, England lost three players to concussion over the summer tour of Australia and one of those, Tom Curry, has admitted that significant disruption owing to head injuries is inevitable in the Test arena.
Curry was withdrawn at half-time in England’s first Test defeat by Australia in July and, given World Rugby had tightened its return-to-play protocols at the start of that month, the decision was taken to rule him out of the remainder of the tour.
Sam Underhill and Maro Itoje suffered similar fates while the Wallabies also lost Jordan Petaia and Allan Alaalatoa to head injuries in what proved to be an attritional tour.
Curry, who made his second appearance of the season for Sale against Exeter, concedes concussion is an occupational hazard.
“Yeah, rugby is a contact sport,” he said. “You work on your tackle technique, you try and get it right but ultimately it’s very different every time you do it. If the research backs [longer stand-down periods], then I’m all for it.”
Meanwhile, England have confirmed they will play four warm-up fixtures before next year’s World Cup including two at Twickenham against Wales and Fiji. They will also play Wales in Cardiff and face an away fixture against an as yet unnamed team but unlike 2019, when they played Italy at St James’ Park in Newcastle, there will be no home match away from Twickenham.
Premiership Rugby have announced the expected development that Worcester’s match against Harlequins has been cancelled this weekend with the Warriors suspended from all competitions. A panel will be convened to decide the results and points allocations for this match and the previous cancelled match against Gloucester.