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The Freddie Steward message for France, and his most feared No10

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Dan Mullan/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

England full-back Freddie Steward has issued a warning to France ahead of Saturday’s round four Guinness Six Nations match at Twickenham. The 22-year-old was voted player of the match in the round three win over Wales in Cardiff after he impressively dealt with a deluge of high balls and he is hoping the French adopt the same tactic and target him with a pile more kicks in a few days’ time.

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Asked during a 14-minute interview on the latest Rugby Pod if he wanted France to rain high balls down on top of him in London, Steward said: “I hope so.”

Composure under the high ball has been classed as the full-back’s super skill in the England team, but he insisted a vast amount of work goes into it and he isn’t completely happy with its effectiveness despite his eye-catching performance at the Principality Stadium.

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“I dropped one against Wales,” he quipped before detailing what he gets up to prepare. “Loads, loads of hard work. I guess it’s like not being satisfied with where it is at the minute. I have got to keep pushing, keep working hard on it. I don’t want to sort of slack off on it and then all of a sudden it’s not working on a game day.

“So after training, we always get the big bag out. We get Nate (sports scientist Nathan Beardsley), one of the S&C guys, under it which is quite fun, knee in the back, but he is brilliant. It’s good fun, I enjoy it.”

Quizzed specifically on how France are faring in the championship with a similar W2 L1 record as England, Steward added: “They have played in different ways in their first couple of games. The challenge for us is to try and see what is coming. They are the No2 team in the world, we know they are going to be unbelievable at the weekend. They are a very strong outfit. (Antoine) Dupont, (Romain) Ntamack, fantastic players. It is going to be a challenge for us but the boys are really excited. We are just keen to get stuck into it.”

It was July 2021 when Steward first burst onto the England scene after impressing at Leicester and he has blossomed on the international stage. Who has been his toughest opponent, though, when it comes to testing him under kicks? “The one that springs to mind is Finn Russell last year when we played Scotland away,” he revealed.

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“It was my first ever game in the Six Nations, I’d never played (against) Finn before and when you are 15 and coming up against a team, the 10 is always the man you try and study.

“You try and figure out his triggers, where he is going to kick, what he does before he kicks and Finn is one of those players you never know, he has got a box of tricks and he has got the ability if you are out of position to expose you in seconds so I didn’t enjoy coming up against him.”

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Turlough 6 hours ago
'Let them keep talking' - Mike Catt claps back over Bok remarks

“You want that – not hatred – but whatever it is that stirs it all up. It’s good.” Agree with this. If you can put a common motivating idea in all your players heads during a game it can produce a real Team perfromance. Erasmus is pretty expert at this. It is quite clear that the comments by Etzebeth, Allende and others were not coincidence and were actioned to create animoisty before the series in order to galvanise the South African mind set. While I understand it, I don’t like it. They result in unnessary vitriol between supporters and for what? I don’t think any of the SA players seriously believe any of these claims and with Ireland ignoring them Erasmus won’t get the escalation he seeks. The vitriol shown by some SA and indeed NZ supporters is extremely weird for NH supporters (OK, maybe England have felt it) but it just feels very odd over a sport. Ireland were more or less sh1t for the first 100 years of their rugby, they have improved significantly in the last 25 to be in a position around now (it may not last) to go into a match with the big guns with a real shot of winning. The reaction to this from some SH supporters has been bizarre with conspiracy theories of ‘Arrogance’ fueling abuse from supporters and even NZ players to Irish crowds during the world cup. I love International rugby and the comraderie between supporters. I genuinely dread and dislike the atmosphere around games with the southern giants. They take this very personally. NH teams: play them, try and beat them, enjoy the craic with their players and supporters and wish them well. SH teams wish them well and they call you arrogant in the press months later. Its just a matter of try and beat them and then good riddance til the next time.

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