Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Nowell turns his back on the seas

Jack Nowell, centre, is on the brink of an England debut.

Trawlerman's son Jack Nowell gambled his working future on becoming a professional rugby player, insisting following his father on to the seas was never an option.

Nowell could make his England debut in the RBS 6 Nations opener against France in Paris on Saturday week as reward for a tackle-busting season at Exeter.

The tattooed 20-year-old Cornishman believes he would have remained in rugby obscurity but for the Chiefs ascent into the Aviva Premiership, which placed him on the radar of head coach Stuart Lancaster.

With a first cap beckoning as England contend with injuries to Marland Yarde and Christian Day and Chris Ashton's collapse in international form, Nowell's decision to pursue his of love of rugby is proving well-judged.

"I used to wind up my mum (Louisa) a lot by saying 'I think I'll go to sea with dad next week'," he said.

"She used to have a go at me every time. 'I'm not letting you go, that's your dad, you're different'.

"I've only been out on a boat once, when my uncle passed away and we all went out on my old man's trawler to spread his ashes.

"My mum would ask me all the time - what are you going to do if you don't play rugby?

"When I first started rugby my mum used to take me along because I was an energetic kid. I hated it.

"I stood on the touchline and refused to join in. But when we got to 15-a-side I realised I did love the game.

"For me, it was always rugby. I went into Truro College not knowing what I was doing.

"I was probably a bit silly on the college side of it - I focused mostly on the rugby and the work came second. I'll admit that. But luckily the gamble did come off."

Nowell's father Michael runs a fleet of three boats and the Exeter flyer, whose heavily tattooed left arm is inked with a fisherman's good luck charm to scare away evil spirits when at sea, often feared for his safety as he waited for his return from work.

"Dad doesn't go out to sea as much as he used to. He does most of his work on land," he said.

"I didn't really see my dad a lot growing up, he'd go to sea for eight days, came in for two, then away again.

"But I used to go on his phone when he was back and see some of his videos of him in the wheelhouse and the waves all coming over the boat.

"The crew were getting wiped off the boats. I thought I would not enjoy that. He would downplay the danger and I got a bit anxious when he was away."

Nowell's interest in surfing has taken a back seat while he pursues his rugby career - "if I told the club or England that I was injured surfing, it wouldn't go down very well" - and he knows where his strengths lie on the pitch.

"I'm not one of the fastest wings in Premiership or in England's squad, but I enjoy getting my hands on the ball," he said.

"I enjoy running at defences and try to beat defences with my footwork, or with my leg drive through contact.

"I do that a lot at Exeter. I do enjoy getting in the rucks and stuff."

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