Tom Johnson: England flanker ready to prove worth to Exeter

By Brent PilnickBBC Sport
Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson's first Premiership appearance last season came against Newcastle in February

England flanker Tom Johnson wants to prove to Exeter's coaches that he still has a part to play at the club.

The 33-year-old missed much of last season after surgery on a neck injury.

He started just two LV= Cup games as players such as Dave Ewers, Don Armand and Mitch Lees forced their way in.

"It's a case of me of me wanting to try to get involved in the squad, prove my fitness and prove to the coaches that I can still play this standard," Johnson told BBC Sport.

Johnson won the last of his eight England caps during the tour to New Zealand in 2014, but managed just three replacement appearances in the Premiership last season as Exeter narrowly missed out on the top four.

"You know when you train with the boys and do a pre-season whether you've still got it mentally and physically, and I've got no doubts at all," added Johnson, who is in his ninth year with the Chiefs.

"All my focus has been on Exeter and I've always said that if things go well, the other stuff takes care of itself, so it's nice being back here and I'm thoroughly enjoying it."

England players while at Exeter

But Johnson knows that competition for places will not get any easier this season, with the Chiefs bringing in experienced Leicester flanker Julian Salvi to add to the back-row force of Thomas Waldrom, who was the Premiership's leading try-scorer last season.

"Although I was injured for a bit of last season, the way the boys stepped up with Don Armand, Dave Ewers and Tom Waldrom playing so well at that standard meant that I wouldn't be able to get a look in because they'd set the bar so high," said Johnson.

"Salvi's a good lad and he's going to push that bar and push everyone for a starting spot.

"There's potentially six back-rowers that are Premiership standard and that strength in depth is not what we had a few years ago."

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