Woodburn refusing to give up on England dream
IN-FORM Exeter wing Olly Woodburn reckons being snubbed by England has only fuelled his ambition to nail down a Premiership winner’s medal.
Ten-try Woodburn is enjoying his best scoring campaign for an Exeter outfit notching tries for fun ahead of the play-offs. However, he was overlooked for the Argentina tour in favour of rookie trio Denny Solomona, Joe Cokanasiga and Nathan Earle.
Woodburn, 25, told TRP: “I can’t lie, it was disappointing to miss out. With the back three boys going with the Lions there were definitely opportunities for me and I don’t think I’ve been as close as I was to England selection before.
“It would have been great to get a shot, but I’ve got a lot of focus on the end of the season now and we’ve got a big semi-final coming up.
“This has been my best try-scoring season by far so if I could bag a few more important tries now, that’d be great.”
Woodburn has proved a revelation at Chiefs since joining in 2015 from Bath, where he was never given a proper crack by then-boss Mike Ford.
He said: “I felt like I put a lot on the line for Bath and put in some really good performances, but I didn’t get the rewards. It was frustrating because I’d do well and then get dropped for reasons I didn’t understand, but here it’s been different.
“I’ve worked on strengths and grown in this environment. Ali Hepher and the other coaches are not always hammering you about weaknesses and things to improve on, it’s player-led and there’s a responsibility on you to improve together.”
Woodburn is a bigger unit than he once was. He explained: “I’m heavier than before – around 100kg (15st 7lb) compared with 95kg (14st 10lb) at Bath – and whilst I was afraid of putting on weight, I’m doing 80 minutes in a high tempo side. “It’s made me stronger and helped my defensive work. People don’t run through me and I haven’t lost any speed, either, so it’s been great to come down to Exeter, work hard on and off the field and get some big rewards off the back of that.”
Exeter have the look of Premiership champions, with Woodburn adding: “We know what we did wrong in the final against Saracens last year, so we’re determined to put it right. We’re in good form and will take on anyone – home or away!”