England turn to Newlyn's Nowell for Paris opener
WHEN Jack Nowell walks out at the Stade de France on Saturday, he will complete his meteoric rise from Exeter Chiefs Academy kid to full England international.
It is only 14 months since the then 19-year-old from Newlyn was making his first Premiership start for the Devon club.
Now he is in England's 26-man squad for the Six Nations opener against France and is set for his debut.
Should he play, he would become the first player from west Cornwall to play for his country since Brian 'Stack' Stevens represented England and the Lions with great distinction in the 1970s.
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Nowell was given his big chance away to London Irish, but it was obvious straight away the Chiefs had a very special talent on their hands. He performed that day like he had been a Premiership player all of his life.
Fearless in both attack and defence, he had the outrageous confidence to kick the ball over the last defender and race 45 metres to score what he thought was his first league try, only for it to be ruled out for a knock-on. Since then, I have seen almost every one of Nowell's appearances for Exeter and England Under-20s, and have found myself repeatedly eulogising on radio about his enormous talent.
What a 14 months it has been for him.
He made 11 Premiership appearances last season, such was Exeter head coach Rob Baxter's belief in the youngster.
He won the Under-20 Six Nations Championship with England in the spring, and the Junior World Championship in France in June, scoring the try that got England right back into the final against Wales in Vannes.
He then gained a place in the England Saxons squad, and finished the year crowned BBC South West Sportsman of the Year. However, I did not expect him to gain his first full England cap quite so fast.
With Chris Ashton, Marland Yarde and Christian Wade ahead of him in the pecking order, he looked set to have to satisfy himself with a Saxons place this season.
But with Ashton losing form, and Yarde and Wade both injured, Nowell has suddenly pushed his way to the front, despite missing the opening two months of the campaign with a knee injury.
Amazingly, he has made it into the England team as a winger yet to score a try this season, but he is the sort of player spectators love, because when he gets the ball, invariably something happens.
He is also a player who likes to be noticed, judging by his stand-out choice of scrum caps of Cornish black and gold, or turquoise; his interesting haircuts; and his expanding body art.
However, he has not let success go to his head, and has kept his feet firmly on the ground. Interviewing him after the World final, he thanked me for travelling over to cover the game.
That was just typical of Nowell – a really decent lad who his parents, the Chiefs, Cornwall and England have every right to be very proud of.
There were a host of Cornish Pirates in action for Exeter Chiefs last Saturday in their LV= Cup win over the Ospreys at a blustery Sandy Park.
Heamoor-born former Penzance & Newlyn hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie scored a brace of tries, while centres Tom Hendrickson and Max Bodilly also featured.