Nowell ‘desperate’ to make his way to Lions squad as England winger prepares for comeback

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Fit-again Jack Nowell ‘desperate’ to force his way into the Lions squad as England winger prepares for a much-anticipated comeback for Exeter against Premier League leaders Bristol for Warren Gatland

  • Nowell will start his first game since October against Bristol on Friday evening
  • Lions coach Gatland will attend the game with his assistant Neil Jenkins
  • Winger is hoping for a quick return after six months of rehab

Forgotten Exeter winger Jack Nowell wants to seize his moment for Warren Gatland on Friday night and make a late offer for the Lions roster.

Nowell is starting his first game since October, when he played through the European and Premiership finals with fully torn ligaments in his big toe.

Gatland will attend the game against Bristol with his assistant Neil Jenkins as he begins to complete his 36-man roster ahead of next month’s announcement.

Exeter winger Jack Nowell kicks off his first game since October against Bristol on Friday

Exeter winger Jack Nowell kicks off his first game since October against Bristol on Friday

“I’m desperate to go again,” said Nowell, who took part in two tests on the Lions tour of New Zealand in 2017.

‘I’ve had a taste of it, I know how good it is, and I know how much it meant to me at the time. So I’m not going to lie, I’m desperate to go again, but if I’m realistic there are a lot of players who have played all season and are playing well.

‘The team will be selected in two weeks. Hopefully I can perform where I left off in October. I know it seems like a long time ago, but I feel really fresh and good to go. I just have to focus on playing well for Exeter and then leave it to the coaches to decide. ‘

Nowell faces stiff competition for Lions’ selection of Josh Adams, Jonny May, Louis Rees-Zammit, Duhan van der Merwe and Anthony Watson, among others.

Nowell played in the European and Premiership finals with torn ligaments in his big toe

Nowell played in the European and Premiership finals with torn ligaments in his big toe

Nowell played in the European and Premiership finals with torn ligaments in his big toe

Nowell offers the most combative option, however, and he now hopes for a speedy return after six months of rehab.

“There was no way I would miss the European final and then the chance to do the double,” Nowell added. Pretty much all of the ligaments going from your big toe to your foot were broken, but as soon as the surgeon said I couldn’t do more damage, I decided I’d bite my teeth for two 80-minute games. It was the worst pain I’ve ever had.

“If you look back at some of the clips from those games, I pushed myself off the outside of my foot because the toe was tied. You couldn’t play your career like that, but what’s the worst you can do in two games?

“Then the surgeon found the ligaments, stretched them again, and attached them to the bone of the foot and toe with screws.”

Lions coach Warren Gatland will attend the game against Bristol with his assistant Neil Jenkins

Lions coach Warren Gatland will attend the game against Bristol with his assistant Neil Jenkins

Lions coach Warren Gatland will attend the game against Bristol with his assistant Neil Jenkins

Nowell spent his time on the sidelines with his two young children, while also working on his clothing brand, Mustard.

Now he is ready to channel his efforts in Exeter’s Premiership push, after the club’s European title defense ended prematurely with a defeat to Leinster last week.

“I was desperate to go back for the Six Nations, to be honest,” Nowell said. ‘That was a goal I had and I did everything I could to do it. But I ripped my hammy while doing that which was a bit of a stinker. I haven’t played for six months so I should come back fresh. It’s probably the best I’ve felt and I’m absolutely buzzing about going out with the guys again. ‘

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