Bath Rugby’s Zach Mercer admits he was delighted to have received a call up to the England squad ahead of the Quilter Internationals.
The back rower has been one of the stand-out figures for the Blue, Black and White this season and has linked up with his Club teammates Joe Cokanasiga, Charlie Ewels, Elliott Stooke and Sam Underhill in camp in Portugal.
Mercer said: “It was awesome news to hear and great to see some of the other Bath lads in there as well. I’m really enjoying my rugby and I’m playing with a smile on my face, which has led to some good performances. Eddie (Jones) has seen that and was lucky enough to have been called up to the squad."
Zach Mercer is no stranger to international rugby having captained England U20 to a World Cup Final before featuring for the senior side against Barbarians in May. Now the 21 year-old has set his sights on winning his first cap in the series against South Africa, New Zealand, Japan and Australia.
“I’ve been in and around the England camp, but now I’m in the squad trying to push for my first cap. It was a massive honour to be the under 20s captain - we went on to do some great things and I’m just looking forward to the opportunity of getting in the camp with the boys and putting my hand up.
“I was in the Academy squad last year and have come through this year, I was in the (England) squad last year so I got to know the boys, but I’m not the apprentice anymore and I’m just trying to go in there and hit the ground running.
“It was unfortunate last year with injuries and illness, I didn’t get to put the England shirt on until the end of the season (against Barbarians), so I want to get in there and get going."
Mercer showed his undoubted talent last weekend against Wasps displaying his footwork, pace and strong carries. Whilst Mercer doesn’t conform to the modern day back rower, he believes that he can offer England something different from the back of the scrum.
“I’m not the biggest rugby player around, so I have to find different ways of going into contact rather than just running over people. So, I offer something different with my footwork and offload game etc. It comes down to what Eddie wants to do with the squad and I’m happy to play whatever kind of rugby he wants, and get my first cap for England at Twickenham.”
Mercer admits that he’s ready and raring to go, but having some familiar faces will only enhance his experience over the next few weeks.
“Big Joe, or Fiji Joe as we call him - I’m his private chauffer, so I drive him to and from training every day, we’ve got a pretty good relationship. It’s not just him though, you’ve got Charlie Ewels, Sam Underhill and Elliott Stooke in the squad, so it’s good to have some familiar faces, when times get tough in camp it’s good to see people you know and have a laugh with them.”
Whilst his breakthrough at international is within touching distance, Mercer is not resting on his laurels.
“I’ve just got to keep playing well for Bath. I’m just going to keep pushing on and constantly improve. I don’t want to settle now for where I am, I want to keep getting better - it’s an exciting future ahead for me personally,” Mercer told BBC Radio 5 Live.