Jack Nowell defends his decision to quit England, he's enjoying new life


Jack Nowell has shared that he is thoroughly enjoying life in France after his bold decision to leave Exeter Chiefs and England last summer.

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Originally, he signed a two-year contract with Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle, but he has since extended his stay until the end of the 2026/27 Top 14 season.

"This is my home at the moment," revealed Nowell to Rugby Pass.

"I've actually just found a house which we are going to move into, literally about 400 metres down the road from where we are staying now. We like it so much here that we didn't want to leave.

"During the winter it's very much like Cornwall where it's a bit of a ghost town, just the locals around. But as soon as you start getting into this time of the year, you start seeing more pressure points on the road, a lot more traffic and a lot more people at the beach.

"It's pretty phenomenal. The last couple of weeks have been unbelievable. Bright blue skies, cycling to the beach with the kids for a swim. Back here then for a barbecue. My Commando Joe is just right outside my window there now. That was the first thing I put up I think. You can't fault what I'm doing at the moment. I absolutely love it.”

Regarding the eligibility of English players who play overseas to represent England, Nowell took a philosophical stance.

"I obviously get asked this quite a bit. I've said it before, would English players be as appealing to some of the French clubs if we were able to disappear for the Six Nations as well as their French players? I'm not too sure.

Jack Nowell of England during the Match between England and Barbarians at Twickenham Stadium on 19 June 2022. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

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Jack Nowell of England during the Match between England and Barbarians at Twickenham Stadium on 19 June 2022. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

"The fact that the clubs get to keep us all year around and play for the team all year around is certainly very appealing. I have played in the Premiership for so long and it is still one of the best competitions in the world. At the moment it's not as good as it could be, but I'm sure it will get back up there.

"Everybody's reasons are different. Whether it is experience, whether it is money, everyone is on a different boat so you can't really put everyone down to the same bracket. The majority of us that have come over now are probably around a similar age and have done a lot of our career in England.

"Probably Henry Arundell is the exception, one of the younger ones that is over, but the majority of us now are at a certain age. It's cool, it's nice. I've spoken to Manu (Tuilagi) quite a bit and his wife has spoken to my wife a bit as well about what to expect, what they need, and what they need help with when he comes to Bayonne next season.

"To be able to help those guys and speak about my experience as well has been good, but having a couple of more boys in the Top 14 next season will be pretty good to see. Each week I find there is someone I know or that I played with or played against that are over here.

"It is quite nice to see those faces and speak about their experience and stuff and see how they are finding it. It's good to catch up because a lot of these boys I played with for a long time. To see they are enjoying it just as much as I am, it's good to see."

Bought his local pub:

Despite living in France right now, Nowell has clearly has never forgotten his roots and is eager to give back to the Cornish community which shaped him as a person.

Nowell supports charities within the South West of England, such as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and Cornwall Hospice Care.

Another prime example of this is his decision to buy his local pub, The Swordfish Inn, in Newlyn, in 2018.

"I remember being down there as a kid with my dad and I just remember it being so rammed and seeing everyone like a family," says Nowell.

"When I got old enough and started drinking, it got a bit quiet and fizzled out a bit, and I was then in a position where I could afford to buy it, so me and Mark and Nick George bought it together.

“They're two guys that run pubs down in Cornwall and they're very, very good at what they do, so I mentioned (my plans) to them one day and they were really keen to do it with me.

“I'm trying to build it slowly into what it used to be like."

He is also a director of MUSTARD Clothing.


In his remarkable lineup, Owens features three Welsh luminaries – Alun Wyn Jones, Shane Williams, and Gethin Jenkins. Additionally, he acknowledges the contributions of Lee Byrne, Dwayne Peel, and Leigh Halfpenny to the sport.

Notably, a striking facet of Owens’ chosen players is their collective leadership qualities, with the majority of the selected individuals having served as captains for their respective nations.

Fullback: Israel Folau (Australia)

Owens said: “For me, it's nip and tuck between Halfpenny and Folau, next to nothing to choose between them. Leigh is brilliant because under the high ball and with his kicking at goal under pressure. He may not always break the line when running but puts his body on the line in defence and is a top-notch match-winner.

“But I go for Folau – only just, I should stress – because of his ability to seemingly beat his man every time he gets the ball in his hand. He's such an exciting player and like Leigh he is one of the best under the high ball.

“It's a toss of a coin for me… and it's come down in Folau's favour.”

Winger: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

Owens said: “How can you fail to be impressed when watching Hogg play. He's so exciting as he burst into that line and, of course, was named Six Nations player of the tournament.

“I know he's a full-back for Scotland, but he is so quick and direct he could easily play on the wing. He reminds me a bit of Shane Williams with some of the things he does.

“When you see who is on the other wing in my team, you'll see how they would work brilliantly in tandem.”

Outside-centre: Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)

Owens said: “Not only is he one of the greatest centres in the history of rugby union but he's a fantastic man off the field as well. O'Driscoll has been a wonderful ambassador for the sport and a real leader. He always respected referees and set the right example for others to follow.

“A legend of the game who conducted himself superbly, on and off the pitch.”

Inside-centre: Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand)

Owens said: “He's another brilliant player and after every game, win or lose, he would come up and give me a hug. Ma'a has always found time at after-match functions or at breakfast if we've been staying at the same hotel to come over and have a chat.

“What a player, mind, too. One of the stalwarts of the New Zealand side for so many years.”

Winger: Shane Williams (Wales)

Owens said: “When people ask me who is the best player I have refereed it's pretty much an impossible task to pick one because I've been lucky enough to take charge of so many greats.

“But if I'm pushed, I would pick Shane for what he achieved after coming from football at 17 or 18 years of age.

“He was in the mould of Gerald Davies in how he left defenders gasping for air as he beat them with those dazzling sidesteps. Nobody would fancy defending against a back three of Shane, Hogg and Folau, I can tell you that.”


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