Nowell edging ever closer to a return
By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs Director of Rugby, Rob Baxter, believes it won't be long before supporters of the club will see star winger Jack Nowell back out on the pitch.
The England and British and Irish Lions star has not played since helping the Chiefs overcome Wasps in the Gallagher Premiership final to secure a historic double last October.
The 27-year-old underwent surgery on a serious toe injury in the wake of that success and since then has been working his way back to fitness under the guidance of the club's medical staff.
This week, though, Baxter revealed the Cornishman is now back in limited first-team training - and all being well will soon be in contention to be a part of Chiefs’ match-day squad.
The boost comes following Welsh international winger Alex Cuthbert’s successful return from a calf injury at the weekend, scoring an impressive solo try in the 15-9 victory away at Newcastle Falcons on Sunday.
Baxter said: “He is not far off. He was training this week, not fully, but he was doing some team training. He is going to be dripped into some more team training over the period of a week or so. He just needs to make sure he gets to a loading level which will avoid him injuring not so much his toe, because that is good now, but build him up slowly so we don’t get a torn hamstring or torn calf because he is suddenly training at a speed and level which he has not been used to for a few months.
“We have got to be careful and take it day by day with slow increments but it is obviously very positive.”
A two to three week return date puts Nowell in contention to be back for either the trip to Sale Sharks in Round 11 or the away game at Bath in Round 12, although Baxter was clear the time frame he provided was just a rough guide.
With Cuthbert back fit and the likes of Olly Woodburn, Tom O'Flaherty, Facundo Cordero and Josh Hodge all performing well in the back three, Baxter has not ruled out the idea of potentially unleashing Nowell into his midfield, particularly with fellow England international Henry Slade away on international duty.
"It gives us a lot of options out wide and Jack has also played some midfield stuff for us," added Baxter, whose side entertain London Irish in the Gallagher Premiership today. "It just starts to thicken our options right across the backline, because Nowellsy can pretty much play across the backline outside of 10 and scrum-half, although I am sure he would give it a go if we asked him.”
As for the health of the Chiefs squad heading into today’s home game against London Irish. Baxter said: “We are all good, as usual we have picked up some bumps and bruises after a couple of tough weeks but it is looking pretty good and we have come through it pretty well.
“We are pretty comfortable with where we are, we are starting to get some of our walking wounded back on the training field, although I don’t think any of them are going to be available this weekend, but we are moving through time so injuries are healing up.
“We have pretty much got everyone who was available last week fit again so we are looking okay.”