Mercer ‘chuffed’ to be in Jones’ squad

Could burgeoning Bath back rower Zach Mercer feel a tad disappointed at missing out on making his England Test debut against Samoa last weekend?

In the eyes of many people he could, for having been summoned into England’s autumn squad by boss Eddie Jones as an ‘apprentice’ and in between times acquitting himself very well for Bath, to eventually be overlooked as Sam Simmonds made his mark felt harsh.

Don’t get me wrong, Simmonds is a fabulous player who was thoroughly de- serving of a starting No.8 place after twice appearing from the bench against Argentina and Australia, but did England miss a trick by not giving Mercer a run? I believe they did.

Not that you’ll find gracious Mercer complaining, though.

When I asked him about his November experiences last week and whether he felt somewhat despondent at missing out on a Red Rose debut, he told me: “Sam’s a top bloke and a really good player so I’m not disappointed at all.

“I’ve still got plenty of time in front of me, I hope, so I was just chuffed to be in the squad and I’ve learned a lot from that environment. I didn’t actually know I’d been named, I only found out on Twitter, so it was a proud moment for me and my family and it felt pretty surreal.

“The reason I got there is because of the players and coaches here at Bath, who’ve given me the confidence and helped out when I’ve needed it.

“I’ve come back to Bath a more devel- oped rugby player, especially mentally where I learnt a lot about myself and how I can push myself much more, so I’m like a sponge soaking everything up at the moment and there’s a lot more to come.

“It was a pretty physical camp. The training was tough but very worthwhile, so I feel I’ve come back to Bath now in a much better state.”

Accepting of the situation he may be, but there’s little doubt that Mercer’s ambition at international level burns very brightly indeed. Jones claimed last week to know 22 or 23 of the 31 men he will take to World Cup 2019, which leaves up to nine spots up for grabs. Mercer intends filling one, adding: “Eddie said that but it can change at any point; all it takes is one good performance from an individual and you put your hand up.

“I know there’s a lot of hard work to go in over the next two years, but the end result could be a World Cup place. Hopefully, I’ll get into this Bath team regularly and when I get my opportunities I’ll be looking to put myself in that frame.”

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.