Jonny Hill welcomes the demands made by Eddie Jones during England camp in the belief that being able to compete in Test rugby requires “preparing for war”.
Jones’ coaching style came under attack last week when a newspaper report published a number of accounts from players and former staff members painting a picture of a brutal regime.
England’s head coach has since defended his methods and Hill, one of the nation’s leading locks who will be involved in the looming Autumn Nations Series, insists it is the only way to be ready for the physicality of the sport’s highest level.
“When I first started playing rugby professionally I thought, ‘This is hard’. But now you realise things need to be hard for you to get better. If it’s not hard, what’s the point?” Hill told the PA news agency.
“I’ve loved it here. I’ve made friends with people I never thought I’d make friends with. I’ve got mates here who I’ll keep in contact with for a very long time.
“The on the pitch stuff…it’s difficult but we’re preparing for war. In international rugby you need to be ready to go.
“I sat and watched the Wales v All Blacks game on Saturday and you saw how many good players came off knackered.
“You’re playing against the best countries in the world and it’s not supposed to be a breeze.
“It’s a really good learning environment. The man I am today compared to the man I was a year ago…I’m a away better player. I’m thankful for the environment. I love it.”
England are continuing preparations for Saturday’s opener against Tonga at Twickenham as Jones launches a new era, having named a youthful squad for a series that also includes fixtures against Australia and South Africa.
Hill is determined to make an impact following a summer of mixed emotions in which the elation of being selected for the Lions tour to South Africa was offset by his spectator role for the Test series.
A period of soul-searching followed and the 27-year-old second row has resolved that the “time is now” if his international career is to advance.
“I went on the tour to get a Test cap and I fell short which was really disappointing for me, and then we didn’t get to win the series,” said Hill, who won the first of his nine caps against Italy a year ago.
“My club form wasn’t as good as it could have been at the end of last season. I had a clean slate when I flew to South Africa. I played in three warm-up matches and thought I’d played well and had done enough, but obviously I hadn’t.
“I had a good rest afterwards and I realised that my time is now on the international stage. If I get an opportunity this autumn I have to take it with both hands. I’m 27 now and not a 22 or 24-year-old who has just come on to the scene.
“The first time I came into England camp it was like the first day at school, but now it’s more like half-term. I want to be one of the best locks in the world.
“Now I’m trying to be present in the game all the time, making sure I’m not dipping in and out. I want to have constant actions.”
Hill is the nephew of former Great Britain rugby league centre Paul Loughlin but his parents own a farm in Shropshire and it is working with livestock that he hopes will fill the years that follow when he hangs up his boots.
“I’d be involved in agriculture for sure. I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors and working with livestock and things like that,” Hill said.
“I’d love have bit of a farm once I retire from rugby, but whether I can do that or not are two different things.
“You need to buy the farm and a decent size farm is from £10million to £15million, so it’s a decent amount. You can rent farms, but I don’t know what shape I’ll be in when I stop playing rugby.”
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