Jack Nowell played through the pain barrier in helping Exeter Chiefs to Premiership final glory and a historic double, before revealing that he will miss England’s Six Nations showdown next weekend as he requires surgery on ruptured toe ligaments.
Exeter made it two major trophy wins in as many weeks with a gruelling 19-13 victory over Wasps in a Premiership final played in abysmal conditions, a year and six days since the 2019/20 campaign got under way in rugby’s longest ever season. Having beaten Racing 92 last weekend to win the Heineken Champions Cup for the first time in their history, Exeter cemented their place as the dominant club side currently in the game with their second Premiership title.
The champagne was well and truly on ice following last week’s success as Rob Baxter’s side put Champions Cup celebrations on hold to focus on securing a first club double, joining Leicester Tigers, Wasps and Saracens as the only other sides to achieve such a feat. But for Jack Nowell the celebrations, while sure to be wild, were slightly overshadowed by imminent surgery that will sideline him almost certainly for England’s entire autumn programme, including next weekend’s Six Nations decider with Italy.
“I’m not 100 per cent sure what I am doing next week,” Nowell said. “I have actually been playing on a bit of a foot injury which is going to need surgery, I’ve ruptured all the ligaments around my toe, which is not ideal.
“I’ve been strapped up for the last two weeks and have had to dig deep a little bit. Our physios and doctors have got me in a position where I can be on the field and unfortunately I am going to have to get it fixed next week. If I’m perfectly honest, I haven’t trained in two weeks. I’ve loved that, but the coaches have hated it. They’ve trusted me to go out there and perform at the weekend.
“It might be a little while after speaking to the surgeon. After I’ve sobered up in the next couple of days I will catch up with him about the ins and outs.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s been horrendous. It’s my big toe, so any drive off that has been very, very sore. I’ve been fighting a battle since the Toulouse game (on 26 September) – I did it in the last 10 minutes of that game.
“It’s been swelling up and I’ve been trying to get it moving. After the (European) final I spent all of last week getting the swelling down. The way I’ve seen, and what I have said to Rob (Baxter), the physios and the doctors, it is that I would have never forgiven myself if I didn’t give these two games a go. I felt like I was still in a position to give 100 per cent but I’ve taken a lot of reassurance from being trusted.”
The success capped the ultimate rise through English rugby for Exeter, a decade on from their promotion from the Championship.
"Now we can have a couple of days of trying to let it sink in and making it feel real,” Baxter said.
"Now we can look back on the week and I think it is important the lads decompress and relish what they achieved. It wasn't easy out there and we had to dig very deep against Wasps - they made it a final worth winning.
"You achieve any goal by slowly getting better and we probably got here quicker than we could have ever imagined.”
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