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The Maro and Faz advice that has helped Steward star for England

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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New England full-back Freddie Steward has revealed the best bit of advice he has gotten in helping to transform him from being a recent breakthrough player at Leicester into someone who looks capable of wearing his country’s Test shirt for quite a long time to come. The soon-to-be 21-year-old has started England’s four most recent matches and he is set to again wear the No15 jersey in this Saturday’s Autumn Nations Series finale against the Springboks at Twickenham. 

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It has been a brisk rise to international prominence for the youngster whose first Gallagher Premiership start for Leicester only happened just 15 months ago when Steve Borthwick selected him as the Tigers full-back for a post-lockdown game versus London Irish. 

Steward has now started a total of 27 league games, becoming a clear first choice at his club, and he has taken that momentum into an England set-up where the advice has been plentiful to help ensure he is a player equipped to instantly star at Test level. 

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What happened when RugbyPass went behind the scenes at the Leicester Tigers academy
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What happened when RugbyPass went behind the scenes at the Leicester Tigers academy

“It is still very far from done, there is still a lot of work that I need to do to stay here, but in terms of advice it would be not playing with fear,” said Steward when asked by RugbyPass what has been the most invaluable thing said to him in successfully making the step up from club to country.  

“I spoke to some of the older lads, Faz [Owen Farrell], Maro and Joe Marler, the likes of those guys, and asked them what it is like to play in front of 80,000? They said just don’t be scared of that sort of occasion, don’t let it get to you and don’t play with fear, so it was just about playing with that freedom. Obviously, you need to do your job, you need to do your job for the team, but it is just enjoying every minute.”

It was the winter of 2018 when Steward first came to the attention of RugbyPass. At the time the teenager was one of the many stars in the Tigers youths set-up and he featured prominently in the six-part documentary filmed about the next generation coming through at Leicester. Steward well remembers featuring in the footage in The Academy and while his long-term ambition was always to make it as a top-level professional, he never imagined he would be starring for Eddie Jones’ England at the seriously young age of just 20.   

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“No, absolutely not. When you are that age and you are playing academy it is just about the next thing and at that moment in my mind, it was just about trying to get a professional contract and then it is to solidify yourself in the team. To be even thinking of England then wouldn’t have been in my mind. 

“Obviously it was a dream but in terms of if you had told me that as an 18-year-old that I’d be sat here now as a 20-year-old having played for England I would probably have laughed at you. But it has been an incredible few years and I am just excited to see what the future holds.”

What was the prime reason for the acceleration of Steward from the Leicester shadows to the England limelight? “It was having a mindset to learn. It is really important when you are young. It is easy to get carried away quickly when things start going well and for me it is just about keeping my head down, just working really hard and trying to work on skills that I feel can take me to the next level. Having that attitude has been really important and it is just about work rate then and just grafting.”

Earlier in Tuesday’s England media briefing, Steward had told TV commentator Nick Mullins the elation he felt last Saturday after scoring in the win over the Wallabies. “It all happened in a flash at the time but coming back after the game I had a bit of time to sort of replay it in my head and it was just an amazing moment. I can sort park that now and focus on the week ahead but it was a brilliant moment. 

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“I remember when Marcus (Smith) put me through the hole just looking at the line and thinking, ‘Just get there, just get there’ and when I dived over it was just this sort of massive rush. I had Manu (Tuilagi) of the back of me almost immediately and the boys flew in. It was just absolute passion. 

“You can see some of the photos, the look on my face. I didn’t really have time to think about much else other than ‘Oh my god, I have scored for England’. But after the game, I got to catch up with family and friends so that was a really nice moment. 

“They [the England kit he wore] will be locked away and kept as memories, that would be awesome to show my kids and their kids again, that sort of stuff. They will definitely be coming back (home) with me.”

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