THIS year is one most people will want to forget but it couldn’t be the opposite for rugby star Jonny Hill who will treasure his memories of 2020.

Hill, who grew up in Stanton Lacy and went to Ludlow School, followed up a domestic and European double with his club Exeter Chiefs by making his full England debut in Italy on Saturday, writes Michael Beardmore

And it was no normal debut either – Hill’s first cap just happening to coincide with England winning the Six Nations title courtesy of a 34-5 victory in Rome.

“The last three weeks have been very, very strange!” Hill told the Advertiser after his international debut followed wins over Wasps in the Premiership final and French side Racing 92 in the European Champions Cup final.

“I’ve always dreamed of playing in finals and big games and winning an international cap – and for it all to finally come along has been brilliant,” added the 6ft 7in 26-year-old lock.

Hill, whose parents and siblings still live in Ludlow, admitted to nerves before his Red Rose debut and said he was “satisfied” with his performance but that there was “more to come”.

“My phone has been going crazy and it’s been nice to receive so many messages,” he said of the reaction back home.

“It was a good start but I think I can offer England a better performance,” added Hill, who started out at Hereford side Luctonians.

“I want to be playing against the best players for as long as I can. I’m still only 26 and I feel as if I’ve got a lot more growth in me.”

Hill’s international debut was the source of much pride at Ludlow School, where headteacher Paula Hearle said: “We are delighted for Jonny and we are sure it will be the first of many caps for England.

“We have followed Jonny’s career from his days on our school field.

“Stewart Jardine, Jonny’s rugby coach at Ludlow School, has been particularly proud to see Jonny get through serious injury with such fortitude and become one of the country’s best young locks.

“We have all enjoyed seeing him back on our TV screens post-lockdown, looking even stronger and more determined to get over the white line. There seems to be a lot more beard as well!”

Hill’s debut was watched by many in the clubhouse at Ludlow Rugby Club, where his brother Josh was first team captain last season.

Ludlow chairman Andy Wright said: “We had a full house, socially distanced of course. We were all cheering him on and he had a great match.”

Ludlow, though, will have to wait several more months to set foot back on the field after it was announced that the grassroots 2020-21 season has been abandoned due to coronavirus.

Head coach Mikey Jones said: “We’re disappointed but with everything that’s happening, it’s pretty much been on the cards.

“We just have to keep the boys interested and keep going until the start of next season but it’s a long old wait.”