CHRIS FOY – WORLD OF RUGBY: Freak Jack Willis is the turnover king for Wasps who can topple the Chiefs
- Jack Willis is the immoveable object in the way of Exeter’s unstoppable force
- The 23-year-old must get an England call up soon based on his excellent form
- Meanwhile Australia were robbed of a first win over New Zealand in 20 years
It is destined to be a classic contest between an unstoppable force and an immoveable object in the Premiership final. Exeter are the force. Jack Willis is the object.
If there is one man capable of throwing a spanner in the works of the Chiefs’ machine on October 24, it is Willis. Rob Baxter’s team are masters of dominating possession. Willis is the master of winning it back. Something will have to give.
Saturday was another day of the jackal for Wasps, as their supreme flanker was man of the match yet again to inspire the 47-24 demolition of Bristol. In front of Eddie Jones, Willis went through his full repertoire: winning turnovers, spoiling and scrapping at the breakdown, making a stack of tackles, preventing tries and scoring them.
Jack Willis is the immoveable object standing in the way of Exeter’s unstoppable force
The 23-year-old must make his England debut soon. He is too good to ignore, even in the midst of a back-row boom which is creating unprecedented competition for places.
On the evidence of a game in which he eclipsed Ben Earl, Willis should be the primary challenger to the first-choice unit of Tom Curry, Sam Underhill and Billy Vunipola.
Wasps playmaker centre Jimmy Gopperth, who kicked 22 points against Bristol, offered an emphatic tribute to the man of the moment. ‘He’s been outstanding,’ said the veteran New Zealander. ‘He is still so young. It’s scary to see how far he’s going to go. If he is not Premiership Player of the Year, something has gone wrong.
‘He is a freak. He can do the splits and jackal. I told him to show the refs what he can do because otherwise every ref will go, “You’re off your feet”. His centre of balance is so wide, and he is so strong. He’s got perfect technique.’ But Wasps are no one-man team. Prop Kieran Brookes showed on Saturday that he is worthy of an England recall and lock Will Rowlands offered further proof that he can bring a hard edge to the Wales pack. Behind them, scrum-half Dan Robson continued to build his own Test case.
The 23-year-old is too good to ignore, and must have to make his England debut soon
‘He is in the form of his life,’ said Gopperth. ‘He is running the show. His confidence is through the roof. He is playing brilliantly. I am so happy for him. In the England squad, he needs to be right up there and starting in my book, because he’s been brilliant.’
If Jones pays any heed at all to club form, he will know he should pick Robson and he simply must select Willis — the immoveable object standing between Exeter and their second league title.
Double glory for English clubs?
It is 16 years since English clubs won both European tournaments in the same season.
In 2004, Wasps beat Toulouse 27-20 in the Heineken Cup final, while Harlequins edged out Montferrand 27-26 to claim the Challenge Cup.
This weekend, there is a strong chance of that being emulated.
Once again, there are two Anglo-French finals and the Premiership sides are favourites. A backlash from Bristol’s wounded Bears should see off Toulon on Friday night, then Exeter can become the sixth English winners of the main event on Saturday. Racing 92 pose a major threat but surely they cannot match the relentless efficiency and intensity of Devon’s finest.
There’s a chance of two English clubs winning both European tournaments this weekend
Autumn Nations Cup looming for Georgia
Georgia are getting their act together for the Autumn Nations Cup — ahead of an opener against England at Twickenham on November 14. They have reinforced their coaching staff by bringing in David Humphreys as a high-performance consultant and ex-Ulster head coach Neil Doak to oversee the backs and attack.
Former France hooker Sebastien Bruno will take charge of their mighty pack while Calvin Morriss — who previously worked for England — is on board again in a strength and conditioning role. These appointments are funded by World Rugby, to continue the governing body’s successful policy of supporting countries outside the established elite with additional expertise.
The Autumn Nations Cup offers Georgia a grand stage and they will be desperate to show that they can be competitive in the highest company.
Here’s hoping they seize their chance.
Wallabies robbed at the death
Australia were robbed on Sunday of a first victory for 20 years over the All Blacks in Wellington.
Kiwi referee Paul Williams failed to award the Wallabies a penalty in front of the posts in stoppage time at the end, when Tupou Vaa’i clearly entered a ruck illegally from the side. At that point, the score was 16-16 and that is how the first of this year’s Bledisloe Cup clashes finished.
Australia were robbed of a first victory in over 20 years over New Zealand on Sunday
Earlier, New Zealand’s first try had been allowed to stand despite footage showing Rieko Ioane’s foot in touch.
Putting aside any sense of injustice, it was a promising start to a new era for Australia. Former Glasgow head coach Dave Rennie was taking charge of the Wallabies for the first time, assisted by ex-England lock Geoff Parling and Scott Wisemantel — Eddie Jones’s attack guru at the last World Cup.
On-field, their creative hub contained Nic White, James O’Connor and Matt Toomua, following stints at Exeter, Sale and Leicester respectively. Northern nous is contributing to a revival in the far south.
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