Hill brewing up a storm for the Chiefs
By Neale Harvey
Cider-making Exeter lock Jonny Hill aims to become the apple of Eddie Jones’ eye just as soon as rugby is up and running again.
Hill, whose Rib Tickler cider is proving as much of a smash-hit in Devon as his tackling has been on the field for Chiefs, was an uncapped tourist in South Africa two years ago but is firmly back on England’s radar with some Red Rose regulars in need of a rest.
Although this summer’s proposed tour to Japan remains in doubt, Hill is among those fighting for Test recognition along with Bath skipper Charlie Ewels, Alex Moon, the heavyweight tyro from Northampton, and revitalised Saracens’ enforcer Nick Isiekwe.
Hill, 25, said: “I want to play at the highest level possible but the second-row quality in this country is probably the deepest in the world right now.
“That said, I do feel there’s a lot more to come from me and that I’m improving all the time. I just want to keep focussing on that and the rest will look after itself.”
Exeter’s bid for a Premiership and Champions Cup ‘double’ is on hold, but Hill adds: “It feels like we’re in a good place and we’ve been working our socks off to win both trophies.
“There’s been a natural freshen-up with guys returning from Six Nations duty and people like Henry Slade, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Stuart Hogg add a lot of talent to our squad.”
With Jack Nowell and Dave Dennis fit again and Tomas Francis, Alex Cuthbert and Jack Yeandle firmly on the comeback trail as well, Hill said: “You can’t play the same XV every week so having all of those guys back eventually will be great for us.”
With Hill’s continued excellence driving Exeter on, Chiefs forwards coach Rob Hunter has no doubts England should be on the phone when play resumes.
“Should he be looked at by England? Absolutely,” added Hunter. “He’s got all the qualities for that and is a key factor in the pack we’ve put together here.
“He’s a top-class lock and the proof of that is how he performs week-in, week-out with us in a very tough league. He’s playing against and mixing it with the best, is a good defender and ball-carrier – and is doing it against Europe’s best as well.”
Away from rugby, Hill has one eye on the future after joining a consortium of Chiefs players to make a successful entry into the cider business.
He explained: “Myself, Phil Dollman, Sam Skinner and other guys had an opportunity with the RPA to get a business insight with Sandford Orchards, develop our own cider and sell it, with proceeds going to Wooden Spoon and other local charities.
“We’ve raised over £7,000 so far and it’s been a really good experience. I enjoy developing other skills away from rugby.”
He added: “There are other clubs talking about winning the league but I firmly believe that when we’re on our game, no one can touch us.
“The pressure will be on us to deliver on that statement but we’re looking forward to embracing it when the league programme resumes.”