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Jack van Poortvliet making up for lost time after World Cup injury woe

Jack van Poortvliet is ready to push his England case again after a long injury lay-off (Getty Images)


Jack van Poortvliet is ready to push his England case again after a long injury lay-off (Getty Images)

Jack van Poortvliet is ready to push his England case again after a long injury lay-off (Getty Images)

Last August, Jack van Poortvliet left England’s training base at Pennyhill Park in tears, his ankle and World Cup dreams broken in two just weeks before the tournament in France had been due to start. The Leicester scrum half had been perfectly poised to take the number nine jersey after a fine 12 months internationally that had begun with a breakthrough tour of Australia and seen him usurp club colleague Ben Youngs in the pecking order.

But while close chums George Martin, Ollie Chessum and Freddie Steward enjoyed excellent tournaments in white, Van Poortvliet could only watch on. For a player unaccustomed with the toll that injury takes, it was a major blow.

“It was really tough,” the 23-year-old recalls having earned a recall to England’s training squad ahead of the summer tour of Japan and New Zealand. “I was lucky I have a really good support network.

Jack van Poortvliet’s chances of going to the World Cup were ended by an ankle injury (Getty Images)

Jack van Poortvliet’s chances of going to the World Cup were ended by an ankle injury (Getty Images)

“It’s weird being walking back in to Pennyhill, because when I [last] left I was my mum was picking me up and I was leaving crying my eyes out.”

Van Poortvliet set himself a target of being back for this year’s Six Nations, a timeline that aligned nicely with the prognosis of his recovery after surgery. A hamstring injury while working back to full fitness scuppered those best laid plans, though, and it was March before Van Poortvliet pulled on a matchday shirt for the first time since injuring his ankle against Wales at Twickenham. A bright career had been placed on pause.

But the lay-off allowed Van Poortvliet a chance to take breath and stock after a swift rise through the ranks for both club and country. “I think I’ve learned to be probably more patient in certain things, especially as that was my first ever big injury. I was so keen when I was injured to be like ‘next thing, next thing, next thing’. But injuries are long, they’re complicated sometimes.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself. You sort of do have a bigger picture realisation about what really matters. And then you sort of crack on once you get your head down, and you set yourself a lot of targets and it soon goes quite quick.”

Jack van Poortvliet has been back in England camp (Getty Images)

Jack van Poortvliet has been back in England camp (Getty Images)

The scrum half could count on the support of housemate Chessum, who spent much of the first half of 2023 sidelined, and the rest of the Leicester lads, while his family were crucial, too. Van Poortvliet’s World Cup experience consisted only of a weekend in Lille watching England squeak past Samoa – “I definitely enjoyed myself out there…” – with a visit to the dressing room afterwards only fuelling his fire to get back.

Since he last pulled on an England shirt, there has been a changing of the guard at scrum half. Youngs called time on his record-breaking career at the end of the World Cup; Danny Care is more recently retired.

While Alex Mitchell seized the starting shirt out in France, Van Poortvliet is likely vying with Bristol’s Harry Randall (in camp this week) and Ben Spencer, set to lead Bath into their Premiership semi-final against Sale on Saturday, for a spot on a tour that promises plenty.

“Alex [Mitchell] has done brilliantly since he came in,” Van Poortvliet says. “Test matches are changing to almost being played at a higher speed than it has been before. That is something Steve wants from the nines – the ability to play fast but the understanding of when to take control and be in the right areas. There is definitely a big drive for speed in the minute and keep the attack firing as we saw in the Six Nations.

Jack van Poortvliet (centre) played with Ben Youngs (left) and England attack coach Richard Wigglesworth (right) at Leicester (Getty Images)

Jack van Poortvliet (centre) played with Ben Youngs (left) and England attack coach Richard Wigglesworth (right) at Leicester (Getty Images)

“I think Ben and Danny had the shirt for so long because they were so consistent for so long.  For me, it won’t help looking at that as an opportunity to have the shirt for a long time. Having healthy competition with the likes of Mitch, Rands and Spencer to push each other and make each other better will only help the team.

“My focus is to keep improving, I haven’t played loads of rugby this year so I want to take advantage of this opportunity.”



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