HAVING faced down some of the fiercest front rows planet rugby has to offer, England shock prop Ben Moon intends proving he is more than just injury cover for Mako Vunipola and Ellis Genge.
The recipient of one of Eddie Jones’s more memorable quotes comparing him to a diligent coalminer, Moon will be back between the shafts for Exeter this week after his sterling Red Rose service covering an injury crisis which saw him win his first four senior caps.
However, the Tiverton-born 29-year-old is now hell-bent on a Six Nations berth, telling The Rugby Paper: “I was happy with how the five weeks went and think I played alright. I trained well, the team trained well and that was reflected in how well we played.
“You’ve got to adapt little pieces of how you play because what England do is slightly different, but you always train in a way to progress anyway and it was just a case of getting used to new calls and the faster, more intense way England train.
“There’s a lot of short, sharp bursts but (forwards coaches) Neal Hatley and Steve Borthwick are both good blokes and great coaches and everything they do is aimed at improving you.
“If you can improve individually, you’re going to improve as a team and that’s the ultimate aim. If I keep doing that, I should stand a chance of being looked at again.”
It seems certain Jones will summon Moon for more action. Of the former Cullompton RFC junior, the Aussie said: “He just goes down the coalmine every day, digs the coal, gets it up, other people manufacture it and then we have a burning fire.
“He’s bloody good at that – a good hard worker who just gets on with his job. Every day he does it and it’s a delight to have him in camp with us.”
“I’ll take that,” Moon says. “I’ve had some positive feedback but you can’t rest on that and you’ve got to keep working towards the next gathering.
“That means performing well for Exeter and we’ve got a big period coming up now with back-to-back Champions Cup games against Gloucester – games we need to win if we’re going to have a realistic chance of progressing.
“Mako Vunipola and Ellis Genge have been out injured but they’ve played for England previously, earned their shirts in the team and will soon be back.
“It’s going to be a hard-fought thing to try and stake a claim in the England team again and I’m sure everyone will be trying to play their best ahead of the Six Nations. It’s good competition but I’ve got the taste for it now and maybe my time hasn’t passed by.
“To go up against big lumps like Sekope Kepu and Owen Franks was a good test but it was one I really relished. The stage was a bit different with the crowd and occasion but if you try not to think about all those things and get on with your game, you usually do alright.”
Moon’s down-to-earth attitude doubtless contributed to the feelgood factor within the England camp, with the Devonian explaining: “It’s the first camp I’ve experienced but talking to some guys who’ve been there a while, there was a really good vibe around it.
“In team talks and the like there was a genuine feeling of togetherness and wanting to play for one another. Everyone had each other’s back and you could see that in the way we played.
“I roomed with Kyle Sinckler, who was one of our stand-out players, and it’s great to play alongside guys like him and Dylan Hartley who you normally battle against.
“I enjoyed the entire experience and to make my Test debut against South Africa was special.”
As a solid club man who has his roots in lower league rugby, Moon adds: “My first England shirt will be framed somewhere at home but I’ll be giving one to Cullompton, definitely. If Exeter want one, we’ll be sticking another in the clubhouse there.”