England lock gets serious with teammates
SIX NATIONS SPOTLIGHT: England lock Jonny Hill has cut out the jokes with Exeter teammates Stuart Hogg and Jonny Gray ahead of Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash at Twickenham.
Rather than partnering Gray in the second row, as he does for reigning English Premiership and European champions Exeter, Hill will be up against him when England begin the defence of their Six Nations title in a match that marks the 150th anniversary of rugby’s oldest international.
Meanwhile, Exeter fullback Hogg will captain Scotland, with the visitors looking for their first win at Twickenham since 1983.
“We’ve spoken in previous weeks but it’s gone radio silent this week,” Hill said Friday.
“I’m pretty laid back and easy going but I know that Stuart and Jonny get a bit edgy towards the weekend,” added Hill, selected ahead of Courtney Lawes after making his Test debut in October.
“It will be nice to catch up with them after the game but right now I’m focusing on my performance.”
Although Hill and Gray are both aged 26, the Scotland second row is much the more experienced international player with 61 caps to the England lock’s four.
“Jonny Gray is quite a quiet guy, but he has got the best out of me for sure,” Hill said.
“I would like to think I have helped him improve as a player as well. I enjoy playing alongside him and I’ll relish playing against him.”
Hill does not enjoy the same high-profile recognition as fellow England lock Maro Itoje but, with coach Eddie Jones understanding his importance to the team, that is not an issue for the second row.
“Eddie described me as a guy who works underneath the road,” recalled Hill.
“Working underneath the road means doing the things that some people wouldn’t see. It is the glue in a game of rugby.
“So doing the maul defending, the tackling, all the close outs and things like that. Front five sort of stuff.”
He added: “There are guys you need working on the road and there are guys you need working underneath it.”
“I’m underneath quite a lot and I’m happy there doing those bits. That’s why I enjoy playing.”