Exeter Chief's Tom Johnson eager to find out if club or country commitments come first this week
Exeter Chiefs flanker Tom Johnson is waiting to hear whether he will be available for Saturday’s Aviva Premiership game at home to Worcester Warriors.
The 30-year-old met up with the England squad at the Football Association’s new sports training and development centre at St George’s Park last Sunday to prepare for the autumn internationals against Fiji, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.
The players will train together until tomorrow, when they will return to their clubs, at which point the England coaches will announce who will be allowed to play in the Premiership this weekend.
The squad will return to England’s training base at Pennyhill Park at Bagshot in Surrey on Sunday, ahead of the Twickenham clash with Fiji the following Saturday.
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Johnson has once again been selected for England duty, after starting all three summer Tests against South Africa, and he told the Western Morning News: “I’m over the moon to be called up again and it’s a huge honour.
“I’m not sure whether I will be available for Exeter on Saturday. I’m training with England at the beginning of the week, and then I will find out what the deal is regarding the weekend.” Johnson’s name was not on a list of nine players released back to their clubs by England last night, which increased the chances of him being kept out of club duty this weekend.
Last Saturday’s 23-15 defeat at Bath saw the Chiefs slip to eighth place in the Premiership, one point and one place ahead of the Warriors, who will be buoyed by their 23-16 triumph over struggling Sale Sharks last weekend.
Johnson admitted the Chiefs would have to be on their game against a side who they narrowly beat twice last season, with a 15-9 victory at Sandy Park, followed by a
31-26 success at Sixways.
“Worcester have been doing very well, playing a more expansive game recently,” said Johnson, who played his 50th Premiership match for Exeter last Saturday.
The Chiefs are set to come against two former players, with centre Josh Matavesi and tight-head prop John Andress having both started for the Warriors in their victory over Sale. “It will be good to see Josh and John. They are a good couple of boys,” said Johnson.
“Josh has developed very nicely and has been playing very well, and we know what John can do in the scrum, so it will be good to have them back at Sandy Park.
“The pressure is on week in and week out, because of the quality of the teams in the Premiership, and, as we saw last Saturday, you can’t afford to be off your game for ten to 15 minutes, because you will get punished.”
Exeter conceded two tries in the opening 14 minutes against Bath at the Recreation Ground, and, despite a much-improved second-half display, they came up just short of securing what would have been a well-deserved losing bonus point.
“We are a little bit disappointed with the result, but we gave it a go and it went right down to the wire,” Johnson added.
“We probably missed a couple of opportunities right near the end. It was really close and we could have taken the victory, but fair play to Bath, they stuck it out despite being a man down.
“We were disappointed with the first half, and I think that is probably what eventually cost us, but you can’t fault the boys in the second half, they went after it.
“It doesn’t help when you give teams a bit of a piggy back early on by conceding a couple of tries, especially a quality side like Bath, and they played very well for it.
“We were guilty of not chopping their big ball carriers down early. It took us 15 to 20 minutes to realise that, and then I thought it was pretty even stevens after that.”
Johnson provided the scoring pass for a try by Brett Sturgess in the 24th-minute, with the loose-head prop popping up on the wing to grab the touchdown after a good handling move.
It was very similar to his try in Exeter’s previous Premiership outing against defending Premiership champions Harlequins, and Johnson said: “Brett is loitering out there at the moment.
“He is doing well, he is a great little ball carrier, and it is always enjoyable linking up forwards with forwards, but it was good work by Shoey [Jason Shoemark] to create the space for us.
“It is stuff we have been working on in training, so we were especially pleased with that try.”