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The Exeter prediction about Henry Slade and his England chances

By PA
Henry Slade (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Exeter boss Rob Baxter has hailed the influence of Henry Slade on the Chiefs this season and backed him to be in contention for an international recall. England head coach Steve Borthwick sprung a major selection surprise last summer by omitting 56-cap Slade from his Rugby World Cup squad.

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Slade has responded impressively, though, guiding Exeter to second place in the Gallagher Premiership table ahead of Saturday’s Sandy Park showdown with leaders Northampton. He is also the Premiership’s top points-scorer this term, proving a pivotal figure on and off the pitch.

Exeter’s exciting crop of young players – relative newcomers like Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, Tom Wyatt, and Greg Fisilau – have all commanded attention, but 30-year-old centre Slade has provided a dominant presence.

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Borthwick will announce his squad for the Guinness Six Nations later this month and Baxter said: “I’m very confident that Henry is in and about and in the mix there. There are a number of centres who are playing well, but I am certain he will be in the mix and that is why it’s important he keeps playing with the quality he is playing with.

“He has got a couple of weeks now, a couple of big performances. Northampton here, in a top-of-the-table clash on Saturday, is a huge opportunity for that; then we go into European Cup rugby the next couple of weeks after that. There are some big opportunities for Henry to lay down a marker and I’m sure he will take every opportunity he can.”

Slade has proved instrumental to Exeter’s Premiership title push while also starring in Europe, making significant scoring contributions during Investec Champions Cup victories over previous tournament winners Toulon and Munster.

The cumulative effect has resulted in Chiefs starting 2024 by challenging strongly on domestic and European fronts. That is no mean feat given the departures last year of players such as Jack Nowell, Sam Simmonds, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Dave Ewers and Harry Williams.

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Baxter added: “There are two parts to it. His [Slade’s] experience and his seniority are only important if he also trains and plays with an energy and a drive that the younger players do because without that it doesn’t mean anything.

“That is what is really pleasing to me with Henry’s performances, that he is training, playing and talking with a vibe and an energy like he is the same age as them. But the benefit is he has got hundreds of games more experience – and international experience as well – and that is why it is valuable.

“One thing without the other would be less valuable to us, but the fact he has got both is what is making his contribution so valuable to us at the moment.”

Northampton are next up for Slade and co, with Exeter targeting an eighth win from 11 Premiership starts and keeping themselves firmly in a play-off picture that currently sees the top six clubs separated by just three points.

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“Everyone should just be delighted by playing in these kinds of games because the lads are enjoying it,” Baxter said. “But we have got to maintain that. We are enjoying ourselves, week by week. We are keeping pretty level-headed on results.”

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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