The England seven suffered a catastrophic knee injury against Italy in 2021

Two years ago against Italy, Jack Willis was torn down – despite scoring in the 2021 Six Nations match at Twickenham, he was carted off with a catastrophic knee injury. But in 2023, he has roared back, dominating the Italians on either side of the ball.

He only played 52 minutes, but his impact was undeniable.

The Jack Willis comeback began with a try to open England’s account in Round Two of the Six Nations, with commentator Nick Mullins saying on ITV: “Two years of pain, two years of hurt leading to this moment!”

But this Jack Willis comeback wasn’t just about the try.

By 25 minutes, Willis had made 14 tackles. By the end of his stint he had 20. He also made six carries, snaffled one turnover on the deck, while being a general nuisance.

You could tell this match-up meant a lot to him.

It’s been a long road back to this point. In a column in The Times in 2021, Willis wrote of the horror moment against Italy two years ago: “I was injured while playing for England against Italy when Sebastian Negri clamped me around my torso and rolled me sideways out of a ruck, pulling me over my planted left knee. The result was a ruptured medial collateral ligament, torn posterior cruciate ligament and cartilage damage.

Related: What is a ruck in rugby union?

“The new directive bans players from targeting or dropping their weight on to the lower limbs of an opponent but it does not mention a crocodile roll.”

Then Wasps went under this season, throwing Willis’s professional direction into disarray. He is currently playing for Toulouse in France’s Top 14. Which means England head coach Steve Borthwick was bent the usual rules England use, picking a player who does not play in England.

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