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Jack Nowell hopes to make it a summer to remember after an injury-ravaged campaign to forget by helping Exeter deliver another Gallagher Premiership final triumph and earn himself the chance of an England recall.
The Chiefs face Harlequins at Twickenham on Saturday for what will be a sixth successive appearance in English rugby’s domestic showpiece.
Nowell returned from a knee ligament injury last weekend and scored two tries in the Premiership play-off victory over Sale, when he had been deployed at full-back.
The 28-year-old wing had seen his campaign blighted by toe and hamstring injuries, which limited him to only three other appearances.
With spending so much time in the treatment room, Nowell has missed two Six Nations and an autumn campaign – his last England cap coming at the 2019 World Cup.
Nowell is determined to make an impact against Quins to put himself firmly back in the international picture for the matches against the United States and Canada at the start of July.
“It’s been a bit brutal, but it’s kind of one of those things,” said Nowell, whose fitness issues saw him unable to make a meaningful push for the British and Irish Lions squad.
“I have had my down days and stuff, but I know there’s a lot more to play for.
“I knew if I kind of sat back then I probably wouldn’t have made it to these big games in the end of the year.
“But I’m happy that I kind of dug in, because you know this has always been a big target and I love playing these games, so I am glad that the coaches have trusted me a little bit.
“I have had those niggles and unfortunately they are probably never going to go away, but I feel like I’m on top of them.
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“I haven’t got that muscle soreness that most of the boys have got after playing all year, so I feel fresh, am desperate to get involved – and there is no better time to really do that at the moment.”
Nowell added: “I made it clear I was desperate to go on a Lions tour again, but I can’t be angry.
“For me, it is just about getting fit and not looking too much forward.
“I haven’t been there with England since the World Cup, so hopefully this summer I can get back on it, then have a good off season and attack next year as well.”
Quins will contest their first Premiership final since 2012 against defending champions Exeter.
Nowell, though, maintains there can be no sense of complacency, given the way Quins fought back from a 28-point deficit to defeat Bristol.
“I think everyone expected Bristol to be there, especially with the form they showed all year and finished top of the Premiership table,” Nowell said.
“But Quins are very dangerous and exciting, so we have got be on our toes.
“Quins are going to have their moments in the game, so it is almost not about us soaking it up and just taking it – it is about us going back (at them) and doing what we can do.
“We know it it going to be difficult, but it is a challenge we are much looking forward to taking on.”
Nowell added: “We are always expected to get to the final now, but that is certainly not what we are saying.
“We know how hard we work, so we don’t feel lucky to be in the final.
“We still have that edge about us, and we know that is certainly not a given.
“We have never played Quins in this situation before so again it is a new one we have not experienced, one which we have to go in and attack.”
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