After five months on the sidelines, Jack Nowell took less than five minutes to take out his frustrations on Argentina, writes Charlie Talbot-Smith.
Introduced in the final quarter with England sleepwalking into the last eight, the Exeter Chief produced the game’s real highlight with his solo score.
Fed by Owen Farrell, he cut back in off his right wing, tore into contact, bounced off three Pumas defenders and sped away into the right corner.
It was the sort of score that rouses you from the slumber of a Pool stage slog that was drifting listlessly ever since Tomas Lavanini saw red early on.
It was also the sort of score that reminds you quite what a unique talent Nowell is.
His last outing before this one was one of his best ever. Back in June, in the Premiership final for Exeter Chiefs against Saracens.
Nowell was almost unplayable that day, even a smothering Sarries defence couldn’t get near him. But disaster struck late on as he suffered a serious ankle injury.
Initially his World Cup dream looked in doubt, but Eddie Jones and England have given him every chance to come good, and come good he most certainly has.
“I’m very thankful to be back on the pitch," he said.
"It’s been a very enjoyable time being with the boys but it’s a bit different when you’re not out there. To be back training and on the field with them is special.
“I think it’s hard to enjoy (England’s journey so far) because I can’t add impact to it. But it’s very enjoyable seeing what the boys have done so far."
But to get out on the pitch and make his own contribution at long last was worth the wait.
He added: “Yeah, I was quite shocked I was still on my feet to be honest! It’s very nice to cap it with a try, but I’m just very thankful for the hard work the physios have put in, the people around me.
“I’ve always felt very involved in the squad still. It’s very easy to slip out and feel a bit isolated when you’re injured. But what we’ve been very good at this World Cup is how together we are. To finally repay a bit back to the boys is good.”
You didn’t have to look too hard to see how much Nowell’s presence means to this England squad.
Anthony Watson was the man Nowell replaced in the second half, and the man whose place is probably the most under threat by the Chief’s resurgence.
But both he and Manu Tuilagi came tearing off the sideline at the final whistle to congratulate their teammate.
That is because they know Nowell’s journey to Japan has been tougher than most.
After the ankle surgery came the emergency appendectomy out in Treviso in England’s training camp.
Nowell added: “A lot of times (I thought I wouldn’t be here). I had my appendix out. I’ve been close to coming back, then I’ve hit a hurdle. But for me I’ve always wanted to be here, I’ve driven so hard to try to be involved in this World Cup.
"They were just hurdles, something I had to overcome to get myself involved again. Being backed by Eddie [was important] as well. I could quite easily have been sent home but they spent a bit of time on me and to be able to give back is very nice.
“There were no deadlines. If anything it was probably me pushing it at the start and me saying I want to be back for this game and be involved as soon as I can, I want to be out training. It was quite nice to actually not have a deadline.
"I gave myself deadlines and if I didn’t hit them I got pretty upset with myself. To get so far and then have my appendix out just as I think I am back. USA was one I wanted to be fit for and I was fit for that, but Eddie said we will give you another week of training, get your confidence up and if I trained well enough then I could be involved in this game.”
And when you watch Nowell in full flow, you can see why England have worked so hard to get him back out on the pitch.
He may not have the straight line speed of Jonny May, the brute force of Joe Cokanasiga or the hang time of Watson – but he has a versatility and an appetite for work that few wingers in world rugby can match.
Jones thinks Nowell can play pretty much anywhere in his team, even flanker, and it’s hard to disagree.
He can run round you like a winger or through you like a centre, he can clamp down at the breakdown like an openside and pass and kick like a controlling fly-half.
The blend in England’s back three is one of the best in world rugby, and the competition is intense, but that's how Nowell likes it.
Nowell added: “It’s good isn’t it? It’s only good for England, there’s no negative side to that. It’s a bit cliched but when you’ve got boys who are that good in the back three you’ve got to be at your best every single day, every session. Got to make yourself better.
“During the week Monday to Wednesday you have got boys coming for your position, you are working hard. Off the field we are very tight, then as soon as Eddie announces the 23 who are playing you are behind them. What’s been very good with the squad this year, I’ve been a part of it, the boys who aren’t involved at the weekend are giving so much back to the squad.
“We always say we are one big 31 man squad. It is about those boys and how hard they have worked giving back to the squad. That is important, it shows how tight we are off the field. When the boys go out on the field they are playing for the whole team.”
But this England squad is about more than just the 31 players, and Nowell knows that better than almost anyone after his spell on the sidelines.
Nowell has spent a lot of time in the company of team physio David O'Sullivan, known to all as Dos, while his budding lego obsession is showing no signs of stopping.
“Dos has been very, very good to me. All the physios have been very good, but Dos has looked after me and Mako especially, Kruis when he was out as well.
“There are a lot of hands on, lots of hours spent with me, a lot of hours with Mako. It is down to the whole squad that it could have been very easy for me to have felt isolated and not felt part of this team, but that has not been the case at all.
“At the start probably I would say 80 per cent of my with time was with Dos and the physios doing rehab, rehab running, rehab sessions. It feels a bit weird now because I am flying the nest away from him but he is always there to look after us.
“They are massive. A lot of the time you talk about the players but we have an unbelievable amount of staff who work so hard for us to do everything we want to do. Everything that is needed for us, they are there to help us.”
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