Rugby League

England star’s World Cup heartbreak ‘for the best’ as Borthwick message sent

England hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie will come in from the cold today relieved he did not risk his career to play at the World Cup. Cowan-Dickie, 30, was included in Steve Borthwick’s initial training squad but after three weeks gave second best to the worrying neck injury that had derailed his transfer from Exeter to Montpellier.

It was a form of torture watching the tournament on the television when England’s options at hooker were so thin that Jamie George was forced to play all 80 minutes in three successive games.

‌But with Cowan-Dickie’s problem, which depowered his right arm, easing and a new start for Sale looming, he knows the right call was made as he prepares to play his first game in ten months.

“It was gutting not to be involved but in the long run it was for the best because if I had played that might have been me done,” said Cowan-Dickie. “I watched all the games bar one and the boys did well. If I get the chance to be involved again with the England squad that would be really good.

‌“But I need to start performing for Sale first. It’s my first game for a new club and I’m just excited to be back involved. I wouldn’t say I’m nervous for the game – I’m more nervous about not performing as well as I want to for the guys.”

Cowan-Dickie, who was a Test Lion in 2021 in South Africa, still has a power imbalance between his left and right side but it is time to get back on the pitch. “We’ve looked at it carefully and decided this is the best time for me to play,” he said.

‌“I’m at the stage now where it’s safe for me to play and my strength is at a point where I hopefully won’t be too disadvantaged. It’s back to a point where my strength is plateauing. I should get more back but it’s going to take a little bit longer.”

He will start on the bench for last season’s Premiership finalists against Bristol having confidently assured his new teammates he will be the catalyst to turn them into champions this season.

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Saracens, who raised eyebrows by throwing their England A-listers straight back into Premiership action after their World Cup exertions against Leicester last week, have chosen to rest them for tomorrow’s trip to Newcastle.

“We have got to make sure those players who had a heavy load, and a heavy emotional load, at the World Cup are looked after. It means it is going to have to be a big group effort all year,” said director of rugby Mark McCall.

“What we have promised the group is we will rotate regularly and give people the opportunity.”

Northampton stand-off James Grayson will quit the Saints next week to play club rugby in Japan.

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