England’s newest cap Charlie Ewels spoke exclusively to Pundit Arena’s Paul Wassell about his transition into international rugby, working with head coach Eddie Jones and becoming a better player.
“Mate, it feels unbelievable, it’s like a dream come true, I guess. Growing up and watching the England team being successful in the past and to think that now I’m capped at that level, yeah it’s unbelievable.”
Meet Charlie Ewels, Bath’s 6 foot 7 lock and at just 21 the latest member of a new generation of international players that has come through the age grade U18s and U20s programmes that have already produced many of England’s current squad.
Thank you for the messages past couple of days. It’s a dream come true. Great to have Mum and Dad there to celebrate my first cap with me. pic.twitter.com/1QK8Ew2A3V
— Charlie Ewels (@charlieewels) November 20, 2016
Ewels is proof that the player pathway from club to country is helping individuals to get ready for the baptism of fire that is your first cap in international rugby.
“When you play in U20s you’re playing against the best guys your age in the world.
“But also with the Saxons [in the summer] I learnt loads from there, that was a huge step. That was the first time I’d stepped out of the Bath environment in men’s rugby. Before that when I’d come through the academy, I’d only ever really known Bath Rugby so it was really good to go and experience the lads from other clubs and other coaches and hear their ideas.
“The Premiership is an incredibly high standard and nothing really compares to it – but this is what I learnt on Saturday: nothing in the Premiership can prepare me for international rugby. It can put you in a good place but there’s nothing quite like international rugby.”
The Bath lock, however, has been able to pick the brains of England stalwarts Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes, players whom Ewels feels he is learning from all the time.
“Guys like that with as much experience as they have – Courtney’s on 51 caps now, he’s been in the England set up for years – he’s played all the best teams in the world and he’s played against all the best players in the world, so just to see how those guys train and how they conduct themselves around the hotel… All you can do in this kind of environment with the quality of coaches and players there are is to just be a sponge and take what you can for your game and see what you can improve.”
The current England set-up is certainly not for the faint-hearted either, with players constantly being scrutinised to assess their capabilities for the test stage.
“There is a definite step up with the intensity of training and just the general quality. I’ve learnt loads about myself, about the game and about my game the past few weeks. The way that they train here they try to put you under pressure in every session to find out your weaknesses and about your strengths and then obviously you can go away and work on those. It’s not been an easy transition from club level but it’s something I’ve really enjoyed.”
As for England head coach Eddie Jones, Ewels is quick to praise the Australian and the impact he’s had on the current squad.
“Yeah he’s good, he tells you like it is. There’s no grey area with him, he’ll give you feedback on what you’re good at and what you’re bad at, what you need to work on. He expects really high standards of his players, which is what you need at international level, and he’s a funny guy, so I’ve really enjoyed working with him. I’ve learnt loads these past few weeks.
“He just gives you honest feedback, so early on when I spoke to him he said the tackle was an area I could work on, he didn’t try and hide that he just said if you want to play international rugby you need to work on that. You know exactly where you stand with him, so you can go away back to your club and you can work on things as opposed to being told ‘oh yeah, you’re nearly there’, he tells you exactly what it is you need to do.”
The newly-capped second row is also keen to emphasise the positives about England’s second match of the Autumn International programme:
“We spoke about a fast start, and I think we did that, we came out of the blocks and obviously scored those tries and we looked really clinical. In terms of work ons, we had a meeting after the game and we said we could have been a bit more ruthless, we probably left a few opportunities out there. With some of the tries that we conceded, it was probably our mistakes that led to those tries.
“We’ll learn the lessons from that game and now it’s all about moving forward and looking to Argentina who are now one of the big rugby nations in the world. They always come with a strong set piece game and a big forward pack, but they can play and they can move the ball around.
“We’re trying to have that ‘all-court’ game in all areas, so if the weather’s bad we need to tighten things up and likewise if the weather’s good and the space is out wide we can run around and get there. We want to be able to attack from all angles.”
As for the Fiji game, it was a debut for Ewels to remember, and given the talent and the natural ability of the imposing Bath forward, it’s likely to be the first of many tests for the young player.
Paul Wassell, Pundit Arena
Charlie Ewels was speaking on behalf of NatWest and England Rugby at the launch of NatWest RugbyForce 2017. Registrations are now open in England, to find out more or to apply please visit www.englandrugby.com/natwestr