By Stuart James
Talented Exeter Chiefs youngster Jack Maunder described hearing the news of his first England call-up as a “pinch yourself moment.”
The 20-year-old will tour Argentina in the summer, one of four Exeter players named in Eddie Jones’ touring party, along with Harry Williams, Luke Cowan-Dickie and Henry Slade (pictured below).
But it was the inclusion of Maunder that was the biggest surprise and caps a remarkable rise to the top for the gifted scrum-half, who started the season playing on loan in National One for Plymouth Albion.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” Maunder said. “My phone has been ringing off the hook and it has been quite an exciting few hours and an exciting few days with Jacko (Nowell) making it into the Lions squad as well, which is a massive achievement for the club. It’s been an awesome couple of days really.
“I was sat in the physio’s room having some treatment and Rob (Baxter) came up and said: ‘I hear you are going on tour to Argentina’ and I just looked at him and was like… ‘Yeah, cheers!’ I couldn’t believe it, it was a pinch yourself moment really.
“I have played for the age groups and I really want to wear that jersey now. That would be awesome, it is something you hope will happen when you are younger and now that could potentially happen in Argentina.
“Obviously I am a bit nervous (at the thought) but I am very excited at the same time.”
Maunder will travel as understudy to Danny Care, who maunder was in direct competition with on Friday when Chiefs took a huge step towards securing a home semi-final in the Aviva Premiership with a superb 39-26 win at The Stoop.
“I can’t wait for that. It will be great to pick his brains. Obviously we played against him on Friday night and I spoke to him at the final whistle and he seemed a really nice bloke.
“I will just go and learn as much as I can from him, but not just him, but the rest of the squad. It will be interesting to see them and learn what they do day in day out to make them the players that they are. It’s really exciting.
“It’s great that Harry Williams is going, I am absolutely buzzing for him. It will be his first tour as well.
“It is nice to know someone in a similar boat, although there are 15 of us. There are a few boys that I played U18s rugby with like Sam Underhill, so it will be great to see him again. It’s very exciting.”
Maunder and Williams (pictured) are two of 15 new caps named in the party, but for now, the focus remains on helping the Chiefs secure that home semi-final and a potential return to Twickenham for the final.
“It’s been an incredible season, certainly not the norm!” Maunder added. “It started off when I was playing at Plymouth and hoping to get a couple of Anglo-Welsh Cup games, but the way it has gone… a lot of it has been luck with a couple of injuries and things like that, which has really brought on myself and Stu (Townsend) which has been great.
“It has certainly been a contrast to last year, but I have enjoyed every minute of it and it’s one big last push for the rest of the season now and I am looking to push on and maybe win some silverware.
“We have Northampton in a few weeks and these next two matches are massive for us regarding where we finish in the table and getting that home semi is a massive incentive for us. The boys are working hard this week and next week focusing purely on that and then pushing on for the semi-finals. This is the business end now and where you have to play your best rugby.”