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The rapid rise of Nic Dolly: From Championship rugby to England call-up in a matter of months

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 18/10/2021 Ben Coles
Leicester Tigers Nic Dolly during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between London Irish and Leicester Tigers at Brentford Community Stadium on October 9, 2021 in Brentford, England. - GETTY IMAGES © GETTY IMAGES Leicester Tigers Nic Dolly during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between London Irish and Leicester Tigers at Brentford Community Stadium on October 9, 2021 in Brentford, England. - GETTY IMAGES

When Nic Dolly travelled to Manchester five years ago from Sydney to visit his grandparents, it proved to be a transformative trip. During his two-month stay up north he was asked to play for the Sale Sharks academy side and the rest is history, with Dolly soon turning out for England under-18s.

“It’s sort of a big honour for me, especially with mum being from England and my grandparents living here. I’m proud to be able to pull on the jersey and have them watch," Dolly said at the time of representing the age-grade side. The whole Dolly family will no doubt be even prouder if he features for England in any of their three Tests this autumn against Tonga, Australia and South Africa.

Back in 2017, the teenage Dolly was handed a five-year contract after impressing with the academy side, followed by loans to Rotherham, Sale F.C. in National League 1 and Jersey. Dolly then left Sale for Coventry this year ahead of the start of the delayed Championship season.

It only took three matches for Coventry, and three tries, for Dolly to get snapped up by Leicester, but the hooker's rise since then has been rapid, going from a first Premiership start last month in Leicester's season-opening win over Exeter Chiefs to being named in Eddie Jones' England squad and nominated for September's Premiership player of the month award.

"He's an industrious player who has been very impressive for Leicester and we feel like he can make the jump to Test rugby," Jones said of the 22-year-old on Monday after naming him as one of three hookers in his squad for the autumn, along with Exeter's Luke Cowan-Dickie and Newcastle's Jamie Blamire. The fact that Dolly, uncapped, has been selected ahead of Saracens' Jamie George feels significant, for both players given George was recently touring with the British and Irish Lions.

Nic Dolly has made an impact for Leicester this campaign © GETTY IMAGES Nic Dolly has made an impact for Leicester this campaign

"He is just a hard worker, pretty relentless with his work-rate," Ellis Genge, Dolly's captain and front-row partner at Leicester, said of the new England call-up. "He goes about his craft very nicely, and wants to get better every day. I am sure Steve [Borthwick] has liaised with Eddie in that regard. In a specialist position, your arrows have to be quite good [at the lineout] and luckily for Nick they are reasonably OK," he added with a smile. "Credit to him, he has done really well. You can't take anything away from his performances, can you?

"I'm happy for Doll, I really am. He's a top kid. I have the utmost respect for him on and off the pitch. He's young, it's good to have age on your side. Getting a call-up like that, the world is his oyster. He can take the opportunity with both hands. I look forward to seeing him grow more."

Leicester Tigers' Nic Dolly scores a try during the Gallagher Premiership match at Sixways Stadium, Worcester. - PA © Provided by The Telegraph Leicester Tigers' Nic Dolly scores a try during the Gallagher Premiership match at Sixways Stadium, Worcester. - PA

Dolly has scored five tries in the Premiership this season, tying him with Louis Lynagh as the league's top try scorer, and while the majority of those have come off the back of Leicester's impressive rolling maul, he finished off a slick counter-attack started by another young England call-up from Leicester in Freddie Steward.

Dolly is certainly surrounded at Leicester by enough front row wisdom to develop into a top international, from working with a club stalwart at hooker in Tom Youngs - currently on indefinite leave to care for his wife - plus another experienced current international hooker in Argentina's Julian Montoya, to playing in a front row alongside Genge and a seemingly rejuvenated Dan Cole.

"It is credit to all the boys around me," Dolly said to the Leicester Mercury of his recent player of the month nomination. "We have got a world-class front row and there’s always healthy competition now Julian is back now.

"All the Leicester supporters know the Leicester of old and how the forward pack was the dominant force when they won all their trophies.

"I am trying to be a sponge around them and deliver on the pitch when I am called upon."

The young hooker who grew up playing for Dural and Eastwood in New South Wales before that life-changing visit to the north of England could soon find himself running out at Twickenham next month against the country of his birth in Australia.

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