Henry Slade knows better than most what game day at Twickenham is all about. Having experienced it on numerous occasions with both club and country, the Exeter playmaker will stroll into the home of English Rugby again this Saturday with his eyes fixed firmly on the big prize.
Chiefs are preparing for a fourth successive appearance in the Gallagher Premiership final and they are keen to redress the balance after losing last year’s decider 27-10 to Saracens, who again stand in their way in London.
Slade admits it was a dark place for him and his team-mates after that defeat 12 months ago. “I remember a few of us boys sat down after the game last year and told ourselves we never wanted to feel like that again,” he said.
“That experience a couple of years ago of winning the league was probably the best rugby experience I’ve ever had. To do that and get success with some of your best mates is such a good feeling and the days that follow on after that celebrating are just so good.
“This year we’ve been doing everything we can to make sure we don’t feel like we did last year. Now, we’ve got one more game at the weekend to do that. Whatever it is that spurs you on, we’ve got to use that to the best we can this weekend because we know what the feeling is having the reverse result like we had last year.”
— Exeter Chiefs (@ExeterChiefs) May 30, 2019
The Chiefs have gone about their business impressively so far this season, booking their semi-final place in record-breaking time before then seeing off Northampton Saints comprehensively last weekend to secure their passage back to the final.
“Over the last couple of years we’ve had a bit of a shift in our mindset,” added Slade. “If we’re honest, we were sort of just pleased to be in that first final. We then had a taste of winning it the year after and then having the complete disappointment of being absolutely gutted at losing last year.
“It shows the way the shift in mindset amongst the boys and coaches, and probably the fans as well, is what we expect of ourselves. We expect a lot more all the time now and if we can go one better this year then that would obviously be a massive thing for us.
Despite being one of the more recognisable names in the Chiefs squad, Slade is quick to pay tribute to those around him. “It’s been way more than just the boys taking the field at the weekend,” he explained.
“We’ve virtually used our whole squad this year and that shows how strong our whole squad is. I mean boys get injured, boys are away on international duty, or others just need a rest at times, whichever guys gets called in, they step up and it’s seamless, there is no drop off.
“That’s credit to the coaches for the work they do and the recruitment they don, but also an awesome effort from all of the boys this year to get us where we are.
“Even if boys haven’t been playing that much, the work they have being doing in training, prepping the side, playing at the weekend for games has been top class and I know the boys at the weekend can’t thank them enough.”
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