Jack Nowell still has time to secure his place on the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa, according to Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter.
Nowell made his first appearance of the season as a final-quarter replacement in Saturday’s 43-13 victory over Wasps having recovered from toe ligament surgery and a torn hamstring.
Friday’s night’s clash against Gallagher Premiership leaders Bristol is the tackle-busting England wing’s last chance to prove to Warren Gatland that he is a genuine option with the Lions head coach naming his squad on May 6.
Exeter’s exit from the Champions Cup has denied Nowell another opportunity, but Baxter insists the timing of his comeback could actually work in the tourists’ favour.
“It’s down to Warren Gatland but personally I think he’s (Nowell) got plenty of time,” Baxter said.
“Where he’s fortunate is that he’s got international pedigree, club pedigree at the highest level and has been on a Lions tour before, so Warren knows him and the character he is and the quality of player he is.
“If anything, he could probably enter a Lions tour in the best condition he’s ever been in.
“He won’t be at the end of a long season, he will be five, six, seven games in if we manage to get into the later stages of the Premiership. So probably absolutely perfect.
“He’ll probably be in that golden game time period if he plays through now and gets plenty of minutes. He would be absolutely at the peak of his game by the time you get to that Lions scenario.
“I would like to think, if anything, he’s got a great opportunity. It’s for us to hopefully give him that platform and for him to perform.”