Eddie Jones has been handed a major triple injury boost before England’s summer tour of Australia with the Exeter trio of Jack Nowell, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jonny Hill all expected to be available for selection.
Nowell has been out of action since breaking his arm in England’s Six Nations defeat by France in March, while Cowan-Dickie sustained a knee injury earlier in the competition against Wales. Hill, meanwhile, missed the tournament and has not featured for Exeter since January because of a lower leg injury but when fit all three are integral parts of Jones’s squad.
Nowell could even appear in Exeter’s last match of the season against Harlequins on Saturday and, though that fixture comes too soon for Cowan-Dickie and Hill, the Chiefs director of rugby, Rob Baxter, delivered a positive update on their chances of facing Australia in July.
With Exeter out of contention for the playoffs, the three players could even be called into camp by England as early as next Monday in a welcome boost for Jones. Cowan-Dickie had established himself as the first-choice hooker before sustaining his injury and the same can be said of Hill as Maro Itoje’s partner in the second row. Nowell has been blighted by injuries in recent years but reestablished his place in the matchday squad during the Six Nations.
“Jack is in contention to play this week,” Baxter said. “And Luke Cowan-Dickie and Jonny Hill should be in contention for the tour.”
Meanwhile the Premiership Rugby chief executive, Simon Massie-Taylor, has reaffirmed the league’s commitment to returning to a promotion-and-relegation system in the summer of 2024, but insisted the absence of jeopardy at the foot of the table has not had an impact on audiences.
Just as was the case last season, there will be no team relegated from the Premiership after the final round this weekend. That means that Worcester’s home match against Bath this weekend is a dead rubber, rather than a relegation shootout with three points separating the sides at the foot of the table.
Next season will stay at 13 teams with the intention to expand to 14 for the 2023-24 campaign, provided the winners of the Championship satisfy the criteria. Amid suggestions the Premiership is being ringfenced by stealth, however, Massie-Taylor is adamant that plans to introduce a playoff between the team who finished bottom of the 2023-24 Premiership and the winners of that season’s Championship will be stuck to.
“The expectation is that there will be promotion next season and the agreement after that is that it becomes promotion and relegation with a playoff,” Massie-Taylor said. “Audience figures are up this year and we’ve specifically looked at matches that don’t necessarily have the jeopardy that they would if they were in that relegation zone and there isn’t a material difference. But there is the intention to have relegation going forward after this moratorium.”