Analysis: What will debutant Jonny Hill bring to England?

Jonny Hill
European champion? Check. Premiership champion? Check. England debut? Check. It has been quite an October for Jonny Hill.

European champion? Check. Premiership champion? Check. England debut? Check. It has been quite an October for Jonny Hill.

A cornerstone of Exeter’s powerhouse pack, Hill has been named in Eddie Jones’ starting XV for a Super Saturday clash in Rome which England must win to give themselves a chance of lifting the Championship.

The 26-year-old could therefore feasibly add a Guinness Six Nations title to the club double he has already collected in the past fortnight – if Hill doesn’t already own a trophy cabinet, he may need to invest in one.

But what will the lock bring to the England side? Here’s a look at why Jones has put his faith in the Chiefs star…


Few sides are more dangerous than Exeter Chiefs inside the opposing 22 and Hill has been at the heart of their success rate when it comes to turning territory into points.

Always ready to sniff an opportunity to score, Hill crossed 10 times for the Chiefs in the Premiership last season – including twice in the semi-final against Bath, illustrating an appetite for the big occasion.

Those scores took his total tally for the club to 22 at a rate of just shy of one in four, which is not bad going for a second-rower.

Hill is a willing runner with ball in hand and embarked on 191 carries across Exeter’s Premiership and European Challenge Cup campaigns in 2019/20, making 417 metres and beating 12 defenders in the process.

His Exeter clubmate Sam Simmonds scored two tries in his first Guinness Six Nations appearance two years ago, which also came against Italy in Rome.

It would not be a huge surprise to see Hill match that this weekend – or at least give it a good go.


While the tries may get the headlines, Hill’s defensive work is also impressive.

The lock crunched into 257 tackles in a Chiefs jersey in 2019/20 and his tackle success rate in the Premiership was 89 per cent; he didn’t miss any of his six tackles in last weekend’s final.

Hill is also a nuisance at the breakdown, winning five turnovers last season, and can be effective at stealing possession against the throw in the lineout.

Elsewhere in the set-piece, Hill is an effective scrummager and will relish joining forces with Maro Itoje in England’s second row.

At 6ft 5in and 111kg, Hill has made his presence felt domestically since making his Exeter debut in 2016 and will be eager to translate that form on to the international stage.


Having started in both the European Challenge Cup and Premiership finals in recent weeks and been on the winning side on both occasions, Hill has sampled the headiest heights in club rugby and will be full of confidence going into Round 5.

His assertiveness has not been lost on England forwards coach Matt Proudfoot, who said this week: “Jonny Hill has done well since he joined us.

“You almost expect a young guy to come in and be a bit shy but he has really imposed himself.

“We had a scrummaging session and I asked the front-rows what he was like. They said he could scrum and he clearly wants to make an impression.

“Watching Exeter play is to appreciate that if you get three opportunities in the opposition 22, you need to take them all.”

The Devonians have become a well-oiled winning machine this season, having experienced their fair share of knockout heartache in the past.

Hill and clubmate Henry Slade, who starts at inside centre for England this weekend, will hope to take that knowhow into the Guinness Six Nations this weekend on what could become another memorable day for the Chiefs duo.