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Henry Slade
Lowerwatha (IP Logged)
05 February, 2019 09:09
Good article in the Telegraph this morning pasted below:

The making of Henry Slade: How 'string bean' winger became England's outside centre of choice

Unusually for Rob Baxter, he found himself watching England’s demolition job on Ireland last Saturday in a bar. Invited to Exeter City’s League Two clash against MK Dons at St James Park, the Chiefs director of rugby stayed to watch the rugby with a beer or two. “It was great,” Baxter told The Daily Telegraph. “I don’t usually get to watch matches as a fan. I’m usually at a game myself, or working. So it was really enjoyable - and I can’t deny I was feeling pretty proud by the end...”

Baxter’s pride was both warranted and understandable. With Jack Nowell and Henry Slade instrumental in setting up England’s victory, and Harry Williams and Luke Cowan-Dickie coming on to close out the game, it was an excellent afternoon for the Exeter contingent. There is little doubt who stole the show, though. With two tries in a virtuoso display that showed off his full range of skills, it felt like Slade’s coming-of-age performance.

The 25 year-old has shone in England colours before, of course. He is hardly coming out of left field. Slade is a Premiership winner with Exeter and was impressing for England as far back as 2015 when he partnered Sam Burgess in a World Cup warm-up game. He only went on to play a bit-part role in that tournament, though, before a broken leg halted his international progress.

And it has only been in the six months or so - with Eddie Jones dispensing with the George Ford-Owen Farrell axis at 10-12, and with Jonathan Joseph still out injured - that Jones has really begun to use Slade consistently at outside centre, as the second playmaker outside a ball-carrying No 12.

In the autumn that was Ben Te’o, and the combination worked well. But the combination of Slade's guile and deceptive power, outside a rejuvenated Manu Tuilagi, has really set English pulses racing.

“It's no surprise that if the opposition have half an eye on a destructive ball carrier then you might get a bit more space yourself,” Baxter observed. “Clearly it worked well on Saturday. And I think Sladey stood out because, like you say, he was able to show so many sides to his game. Not just his passing, carrying and tackling, but his kicking, his awareness of space, his speed.

“The handling and pass out to [Jonny] May for the first try, and the speed to finish it off. And the awareness and ability to read a game for his second. It was exceptional.”

Baxter admits he did not always think Slade would make it. He remembers going down to watch a kicking session with Chiefs coach Ali Hepher when Slade was only 16 or 17. Hepher was convinced the kid was special. “When he finished I was like, 'Are you sure?' He looked very tall and wiry. Like a string bean. To be fair to Ali, he called it.”

By that stage, Slade was already playing for the 1st XV at Plymouth College. Initially out on the wing, as a Year 11 pupil, before moving to fly-half in his sixth form. The school’s director of rugby, Richard Edwards, remembers a “lovely fella, completely obsessed with rugby” who displayed “ridiculous levels of commitment”.

“Henry is from farming stock - I think he had posts in his back garden so he was always playing, kicking,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “I couldn’t be happier for him. I messaged his Dad afterwards because his performance was a joy to behold. Some of those passes seemed almost laser-guided.”

Slade was part of a successful Plymouth outfit which reached the quarter-finals of the Daily Mail Cup one year, losing to a Whitgift team containing Elliot Daly and George Merrick. “Henry was always very classy; skilful, deceptively quick,” Edwards said of his protege. “And while he wasn't the biggest - which seems strange to say now what with him being 6ft 3in and over 15 stone - he was brave.

Edwards actually knows the Slade family particularly well. Both of Slade’s siblings, 23-year-old Seb and 18-year-old Albert, also played 1st XV rugby for Plymouth, and Edwards recalls them being “quite different characters”.

“Albert only left last year,” he said. “He’s quite a bit younger. A back-row forward. He’s at Exeter Uni now. Seb is at drama school in London. He went over and played fourth or fifth-tier rugby in France for a bit. He’s the joker of the three. He likes to be on stage, the centre of attention!” (A quick glance at Seb’s Instagram page bears witness to that fact. Some of the photos, from a family holiday to Mauritius last summer to celebrate mother Jayne’s 50th birthday, would not look out of place in a Chippendales calendar, with all four Slade males, including Dad John, wearing what can only be described as ‘budgie smugglers’.)

The eldest Slade, Henry - who was diagnosed with diabetes shortly after leaving school - is a bit of a mix, character-wise. Like many athletes, he has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. He has a cockapoo called Frank (after Frank the Tank in the film Old School). He plays Fortnite and golf. And he is clearly confident, to a degree.

With his boyband haircut and tan, though, it is easy to get the wrong impression. “He’s actually quite shy,” Edwards said. “But I think he’s growing into himself. I went to a charity function at Plymouth Albion recently and he looked more comfortable with his media duties.”

Slade is blossoming in every sense. Jones noted after the win on Saturday that he was improving with every game.

“He’s a guy that maybe at first he didn’t think he was good enough for England and now he’s thinking about how good he can be,” observed England’s head coach. “You build players mentally by picking them because then they know you love them and we’ve done that with him. He’s played seven of our last eight Tests at outside centre so he knows I love him and that helps.”

Baxter agrees that the run of games - and the way England are playing - means we are now seeing the best of the man he once dismissed as a string bean. And he could not be happier to have been proved wrong.

“It’s always a bit of a chicken and egg thing,” Baxter said of Jones’ comments. “Sladey’s shone plenty of times against international players while playing for Exeter, whether in the Premiership or in Europe. But if you're not being selected [for your national team] that can affect you.

“To produce a performance like he did on Saturday, though, in a big-pressure game like that, was fantastic - for us and for England.”

Re: Henry Slade
mommentum (IP Logged)
05 February, 2019 19:18
So pleased that he got to show what he is capable of, so many of his early caps were a waste of time because they played him in the wrong way with the wrong people, ford would never pass to him also.

Now all we need is Sam Hill and Devoto to match Tuilagi carrying

Re: Henry Slade
Tom A Hawk (IP Logged)
05 February, 2019 19:28
Shame Sky Sports wheren't on the same good form.

Literally the same week he signs a new contract with us too.. Hang your heads in shame Sky...

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