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Fin Baxter tried to 'carry on' skills after position switch in school

By PA
Fin Baxter during an England Training session at Pennyhill Park on June 04, 2024 in Bagshot, England. (Photo by Steve Bardens - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Fin Baxter is being mentored by an Anglo-Welsh front row brains trust that is guiding him towards a first cap on England’s summer tour to Japan and New Zealand.

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The 22-year-old is viewed as England’s future starting loosehead prop after an impactful season that produced the personal highlight of a thunderous all-round performance in Harlequins’ upset of Bordeaux in April.

It was evidence of his rise as a scrummager to be feared as his superior technique mastered the power of 23-stone Tongan Ben Tameifuna in their set-piece duel.

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Guiding Baxter’s development is Harlequins team-mate Joe Marler – also a member of England’s tour squad – and former Wales and Lions prop Adam Jones, who is Quins’ scrum coach.

“I’m really proud of the year I’ve had, with great help from Joe and Adam Jones,” Baxter said.

“It’s always been a nice port of call to have that wealth of experience and knowledge right there.

“I’m super proud to be here and I’m just loving being in this environment to get myself up to that Test level.”

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Marler, a 33-year-old veteran of 93 caps and one of the biggest characters in the English game, enters Saturday’s tour opener against Japan in Tokyo as England’s senior loosehead with Bevan Rodd completing the trio of options in the position.

“Joe is who he is. You get honesty from him, which is ultimately what you want. You don’t want any ruffled feathers. He says what he sees and that is helpful,” Baxter said.

“He’s done so much in rugby at prop. Last season I didn’t call on him as much but I should have done because he’s so experienced and willing to help.

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“In scrum sessions back at Quins we look at little bits and bobs: this is too high, your foot alignment is off. But I’ll also go through a few clips with him here and there, or he’ll come to me.”

Baxter transitioned from back to front row when he was 12-years-old, accepting the switch in position as a necessity if he was to break into the A team at Wellington College.

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“I didn’t change my game, I just had to learn how to scrum. That’s something I’ve tried to carry on through,” he said.

“As a prop I like the balance between the structured side – maul, scrum – and that I can still work on footwork into contact, being aggressive, being confrontational and playing with soft hands. I do my best to try and master most skills – other than kicking.

“Playing the ball in close quarters is one of my strengths – being able to carry explosively but also put other people on to a soft shoulder, or supply the 10 behind you.

“It’s something I really enjoy and it’s really important with how the game is going.”

Head coach Steve Borthwick names his team to face Japan on Thursday morning with two Tests against New Zealand completing England’s summer tour.

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