Jonny Hill puts winding up Exeter team-mates on hold before Calcutta Cup clash

Duncan Bech, PA England Rugby Correspondent

England lock Jonny Hill has called a temporary cease-fire in winding up Exeter team-mates Stuart Hogg and Jonny Gray as Saturday’s Calcutta Cup clash with Scotland looms.

Hill will lock horns with his fellow 2020 double winners when England launch their Guinness Six Nations defence at Twickenham in the 150th anniversary of international rugby’s oldest rivalry.

“We’ve spoken in previous weeks but it’s gone radio silent this week,” said Hill, who is keeping Courtney Lawes out of the starting XV after making his Test debut last autumn.

“I’m pretty laid back and easy going but I know that Stuart and Jonny get a bit edgy towards the weekend.

“Before games I like to keep it natural. If I feel I need to do something or eat something, I will. But Jonny, especially, can be a little bit superstitious about things.

“He’s a little bit different to me. I’ve seen him strap his legs three times before going out for a warm-up. He will put it on, look at it, take it off and then do it again. It’s not right really.

“Stuart is massively OCD, really bad. I’ll go past his bag and turn everything upside down to get under his skin a little bit.

Jonny Hill has temporarily stopped winding up Jonny Gray and Stuart Hogg
Jonny Hill (pictured) has temporarily stopped winding up Jonny Gray and Stuart Hogg, PA

“In the bag are Louis Vuitton washbags and Gucci glasses. He’s a very, very flash guy considering he’s a farmer boy from Scotland.

“It will be nice to catch up with them after the game but right now I’m focusing on my performance.”

Among the pivotal duels in the 139th meeting between England and Scotland will be Hill’s battle with Gray as Exeter’s all-conquering second row go head to head with the aim of returning to Sandy Park with Six Nations bragging rights.

Both players are 26 but Gray is vastly more experienced at Test level with 61 appearances to Hill’s four.

Jonny Gray (pictured) will go head to head with Exeter colleague Jonny Hill in the Calcutta Cup
Jonny Gray (pictured) will go head to head with Exeter colleague Jonny Hill in the Calcutta Cup, PA

“Jonny Gray is quite a quiet guy, but he has got the best out of me for sure,” Hill said.

“I would like to think I have helped him improve as a player as well. I enjoy playing alongside him and I’ll relish playing against him.

“We’re not too bad for comparing stats. He’s a top fella, but he does support Rangers. . . .”

Hill may lack the star status of second row partner Maro Itoje, but Eddie Jones has made him fully aware of his value to the team.

RUGBYU Six Nations
Six Nations 2021 England v Scotland.

“In the autumn Eddie described me as a guy who works underneath the road,” Hill said.

“Working underneath the road means doing the things that some people wouldn’t see. It is the glue in a game of rugby.

“So doing the maul defending, the tackling, all the close outs and things like that. Front five sort of stuff.

“There are guys you need working on the road and there are guys you need working underneath it.

“I’m underneath quite a lot and I’m happy there doing those bits. That’s why I enjoy playing.”

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