Rob Baxter believes Jack Nowell has got ‘every chance’ of pushing himself into Six Nations contention – if he can continue his great form for Exeter Chiefs.
The 20-year-old has only played five times this term after being told to rest a long-standing knee complaint.
But the winger has come back fit and fresh and quickly settled back into the form that won him rave reviews at the end of last season.
That has seen the Sandy Park academy graduate become one of the Chiefs’ main attacking weapons over recent weeks.
And with England boss Stuart Lancaster already having three wingers on the injured list, Saxons squad man Nowell is well placed to get a call up to the senior party.
Baxter said: “Jack’s playing very well, he’s certainly one of our form players and we think we’re playing well.
“There are some interesting selections that are going to have to be made very shortly for the Six Nations squad and Jack is right on form.
“He’ll be at a good age when the World Cup comes about (in England in 2015). So long as he plays well, I think everything’s in his favour.
“He’s playing well, he looks to me like he’s thriving in the big games and that’s almost the most important quality. You have to perform in the big games and not just when we get on top of a team.
“He has to do it when it’s tough, it’s been tough the last few weeks and he’s been making some good line breaks for us.
“I think he’s got every chance, if he carries on the form he’s in at the minute, of pushing himself forward into real contention.”
Nowell was one of four Exeter players who helped England under-20s win the IRB Junior World Championship in the summer.
That, coupled with his Chiefs form after forcing his way into the starting line-up last term, saw him promoted to the second-string Saxons squad.
Lancaster will have to delve into the second string squad to make up for his injury absentees, with Chris Ashton the only fit senior winger.
London Irish flier Marland Yarde (hip) and Wasps’ Christian Wade (foot) have both been ruled out for the entire Six Nations, while Northampton’s Ben Foden (knee) is not expected to recover in time to feature for England in the spring.
Nowell is one of five wingers in the Saxons squad, along with Gloucester pair Charlie Sharples and Jonny May, and the more experienced David Strettle and Ugo Monye.
But with Nowell’s form since his return to action in both defence and attack, and the fact his age makes him someone England can develop for the future, puts him in a good position.
Baxter thinks the youngster is reaping the rewards of the extended rest he was given at the start of this season, and the work the club’s medical staff did with him to look after his knee.
“It was obviously very frustrating for Jack, coming back from the high of the world cup to be told he was going to have to get some hard work done and have some time off the rugby pitch,” said Baxter.
“It was tough for him, but all credit to him, he’s worked hard with the medical and conditioning team. You can see how hard he’s worked by the form he’s in now.
“He’s benefited from that time off. In the long term, it’s these breaks that will determine how successful these guys are and how long their careers will be as well.”