Following an extended break due to his involvement in England’s summer tour of Australia, the Sharks family finally got their chance to see Jonny Hill in action last week as the British & Irish Lion made his highly anticipated debut against Bath at The Rec.
But rather than focus on his own efforts, it was the team performance at Bath that Jonny was especially proud of on his first outing as a Shark, with the 28-year-old recognising the resilience of his new teammates in the face of adversity after going down to fourteen men after just nine minutes.
He said: “I was really impressed with the boys at Bath. I thought we fought really hard and showed a lot of perseverance going down to fourteen and then thirteen men at some stages.”
It was a performance to be proud of for Jonny too as the England International played all 80 minutes to help the Sharks complete their second consecutive bonus point victory in as many weeks.
After seamlessly slotting into the Sale squad following a busy summer on tour with England, Jonny credits the extended break offered to him by Sale as a catalyst for his early form this season.
He said: “The extra time I had off following the tour was good. The main thing it allowed me to do was freshen up physically and mentally whilst it also gave me the chance get used to being in a new environment. I’m feeling good for it now though and looking forward to getting stuck into the season.”
It’s a season of change in many areas for Jonny, having to settle into a new city and integrate himself amongst the squad. But the Devon-born giant admits he’s been pleasantly surprised by the northern weather at least.
He said: “It’s been brilliant so far to be fair. I’ve been here five or six weeks now and luckily the weather has been really nice since I moved up. I’ve not been up to too much so far, just getting into the swing of things in pre-season and spending time with the lads. I’ve managed to played a bit of golf but I haven’t found myself a beach to relax on just yet.”
The culture shock of a move from the South-West was balanced by the bromance Jonny already shared with Tom Curry. In fact he revealed he enjoys both Curry twins’ company, so much so that he moved in with the pair when he first arrived in Manchester.
He said: “I’ve spent quite a lot of time with the Curry’s. I knew Tom from England and the Lions and he offered to put me up when I first arrived. That was a strange experience! I’m glad to be out of their way for a bit now.”
Hill is set to make his first appearance in front of the Sharks faithful on Saturday, with the 6ft 7in lock expected to start against his former side.
And after spending seven trophy-laden years at Sandy Park, Jonny knows just what to expect.
He added: “It’s going to be very physical, especially around the breakdown and the Chiefs always bring it up front. It’s going to be a very attritional game but I’m excited for the challenge. I’m just not so excited to see what’s going to happen at the bottom of those rucks!”
Catch Jonny in action this weekend as Sale Sharks face off against his former side Exeter Chiefs at the AJ Bell Stadium. With both sides still unbeaten so far this season, it’s set to be an absolute belter on Saturday afternoon.
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