England wing Jack Nowell is preparing to hit the road again after undergoing ‘almost like a big MOT’ this summer.
Nowell missed England’s three-Test South Africa tour in June following a testing campaign last season when injuries hit him hard.
But after having ankle ligament surgery two months ago, the 26 times-capped Exeter back is firmly on course towards reaching maximum output.
Jack Nowell is back to full fitness after successful rehab over the summer on several injuries
Nowell had surgery on his ankle in two months ago and also had a number of niggling issues
‘Last season was probably one of my worst seasons,’ Nowell told Sportsmail.
‘I felt like I didn’t really get into my stride. There were a couple of injuries, and you always feel like you are chasing.
‘Hopefully, I can get into a position where I am not really chasing my fitness or chasing games, and I can just be fit for the whole thing.
‘I have almost used this off-season as a real time to sit down and not just rehab my ankle, but some other niggles that I had.
Nowell (centre) was ‘devasted’ to miss England’s tour of South Africa earlier this summer
‘The ankle was my main thing, but I have also spent a lot of time on my shoulder, neck, knees and my leg strength. It’s almost like a big MOT.
‘I was devastated to miss the South Africa tour, but sometimes in a rugby player’s career you almost need to take a step back and say ‘what’s best for my career and what’s best for my body at this time’.
‘Hopefully, I will come back better, stronger and have a better season than I did last year.’
Nowell, a 2017 British and Irish Lion, has not started an England Test since the Six Nations game against Scotland at Twickenham last year.
But the England and Exeter back is ready to fight and earn back his place in Eddie Jones’ side
The likes of Anthony Watson, Jonny May, Elliot Daly and Mike Brown filled England’s wing berths during last season’s Six Nations and the South Africa trip, but a fit and firing Nowell would give head coach Eddie Jones another notable selection option.
‘The big thing I have always focussed on is playng well for my club,’ Nowell added. ‘If that happens, then other things can come from that.
‘At the moment, I don’t have a spot in the England team, so it is for me to fight for that back, get fit for Exeter and start playing well.’
Exeter, Premiership finalists in each of the past three seasons, are likely to again feature prominently among the title challengers.
Nowell claims ‘you can feel the hunger’ in the Exeter camp after last season’s heartbreak
It is more than two months since Exeter lost to Saracens at Twickenham – a second final defeat of their title-bid triumvirate – and Nowell said: ‘It was one of the most gutting feelings I’ve had.
‘It was twice as bad as the first time we lost (in 2016 against Saracens).
‘The first year we were almost happy to be there, to have been there and done it, but then after winning it the following season and then getting to a final again and losing again, was devastating.
‘You can feel the hunger in pre-season. The boys are flying, and eager for the season to start.’
Jack Nowell was speaking at the opening of Exeter Chiefs’ new fitness analysis suite, launched in partnership with Red Bull.