Former international Mike Brown has backed Jack Nowell to feature in the England back three in the Six Nations, touting him as the greatest wing he’s played with.
Nowell, who has not featured in a Test since the 2019 Rugby World Cup, was included in Eddie Jones’ squad for the Championship opener against Scotland on Saturday, February 5.
The all-action wing has impressed for Exeter Chiefs and could be a key part of England’s bid for the Six Nations title this season, according to Brown.
Nowell has given up alcohol
Nowell, who owns a pub in his home town of Newlyn, has benefited from giving up alcohol and losing a stone and a half in weight and England’s most capped full-back Brown believes he still has the X-factor to make a difference.
“If I had to choose one winger to play alongside me it would definitely be him,” Land Rover ambassador Brown told the PA news agency.
“He’s the best wing I’ve played alongside and I’ve played alongside a lot of unbelievable wingers. He’s such a talent, he does things that other wingers can’t do.
“He has the fundamentals at the highest level locked down – he’s great under the high ball, has great kicking skills and positionally he’s brilliant.
“But he also has that stardust, he’s unbelievable at beating players and he always beats the first defender.
“He’s strong on his feet and he’s quick, but I also love that he does the pick and goes and the hard stuff like getting over the ball.
“He’s involvements are top class and are all over the field – he gets his hands on the ball around the ruck, off nine, out wide, constantly out of the back of shape.”
Jones was convinced that the time is right to recall Nowell after seeing his all-action display against Glasgow on Saturday, noting that “Jack definitely looks more like a rugby player and less like a bodybuilder”.
Brown, who won 72 caps between 2007 and 2018, believes his former back three colleague is flourishing after making changes in lifestyle.
“It’s great to hear that he’s doing that now because he’s 28. He needs to look after his body because he hasn’t been blessed with luck in terms of injuries,” Brown said.
“He hasn’t been blessed with the best body shape either because he can look at a bit of food and put weight on! He’s a big boy!
“It suits him and his game to be a bit slimmer because he doesn’t need big bulk on him. He’s strong anyway and for his work rate he needs that slimmer body shape.”
While Nowell competes for one of the two wing positions, there is no doubt over who will start in Brown’s old position after 21-year-old Freddie Steward starred against Tonga, Australia and South Africa in the autumn.
“Freddie was brilliant in November. The fundamentals are what I look for in a full-back – positioning, high ball skills and making the correct decisions, run kick or pass so that you don’t put your team under pressure,” Brown said.
“One on one tackle and counter-attack ability – he seems to have everything you need. Plus he’s got a brilliant frame as well – he’s 6’5” so already has an advantage in the high ball. He has size but moves well.
“For the last couple of years England have maybe missed a full-back who gives the team confidence through being so good at the fundamentals.
“Your team has to have trust that you can claim the high ball but also make the correct decisions because you can put your team under so much pressure if you get it wrong.”
England head coach Eddie Jones hails skipper ahead of Six Nations
England head coach Eddie Jones has stressed fly-half or centre Owen Farrell remains the strongest candidate to skipper his side in this year’s Six Nations.
Farrell’s game time following ankle surgery has been limited but he is set to make his return for Premiership side Saracens against London Irish on Sunday.
How he fares will be an interesting watch for Jones and his coaches with the Six Nations opener against Scotland at Murrayfield less than a fortnight away.
“Owen is captain because he has the respect of the team, he’s a winner and he drives the competitive spirit of the team. He’s the right man to lead the team,” Jones said.