Luke Cowan-Dickie recalled an unusual early warning from Eddie Jones as he gets set to be named among England’s vice-captains for the Guinness Six Nations.
Cowan-Dickie’s status as a young father has brought with it a fresh sense of responsibility and the spillover into his career is a newly discovered commitment to conditioning.
The 28-year-old’s leaner and more powerful frame has meant greater impact for longer on the field for Exeter and is the result of an attitude shift having earned a reputation that even reached Jones when he took over England in 2016.
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“I heard Luke was a bit of drinker. When he walked in, I put a crate of beers on the table. He made me laugh because after we’d had our chat, he walked off with the beers,” Jones said in his autobiography ‘My Life and Rugby’.
At the time, Cowan-Dickie quickly identified the underlying message wrapped in Jones’ humorous gesture.
“It wasn’t a test because I left the room without them and he told me to come back and get them! He said if I get thirsty I can have one in the room,” said Cowan-Dickie, who is poised to be named among England’s vice captains for the Guinness Six Nations.
“The issue was they were cans of Guinness and not so nice! What was my reaction? I thanked him. A crate of 24 free Guinness, you can’t turn that down!
“I think it was more a statement by him, as if to say ‘I know what you’re like and I don’t want you to be like that’. It was a nice way putting his foot down.”
In evidence of his growing maturity, Cowan-Dickie was asked by Jones to be one of England’s vice-captains for the autumn only for ankle ligament damage to rule him out of all three Tests.
With Owen Farrell missing the entire Six Nations because of his own ankle injury, Jones is keen to expand the leadership group as part of his team rebuilding project for the 2023 World Cup.
It comes a time when Cowan-Dickie has resolved to extract the most of his England career, his confidence soaring after emerging as the British and Irish Lions’ first choice hooker in South Africa last year.
He said: “I’ve grown up slightly and I’m getting old so I have to recover. I never used to recover, never used to do stuff like that.
“Before I had my kid rugby was my job but I used to skip all the recoveries and all the extras I may need to do.
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“I have always carried a bit of extra body fat and my weight varies quite often. I like everything that’s bad! I like biscuits, I like chocolate, I like sweets. I like eating my little man’s leftovers, which I’ve cut out quite bit.
“Plus my missus is on a little bit of a health kick so instead of cooking a pasta bake for eight people when there are only two of us in the house, so I finish the whole bowl, we have a chicken salad. So things have changed.
“I just thought having time off with the injury, I would get in the best shape I could try and get in. I feel better on the pitch.
“I feel more mobile and that I make more contributions in the game. And I feel there’s not a major drop-off towards the end of the game.”