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What Andy Goode made of Henry Slade as the Exeter No10

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

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Ex-England international Andy Goode has rated the performance of Henry Slade, the Test level midfielder who started his first match in five years as the Exeter out-half when they were beaten last Sunday at arch-rivals Saracens. Not since an April 2017 win at Harlequins had the now 29-year-old Slade worn the No10 jersey for the Chiefs. 

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However, having exited Europe at the hands of Munster and with Joe Simmonds struggling to find the form that he wielded when skippering Exeter to their Champions Cup/Gallagher Premiership double in October 2020, Rob Baxter has been searching for some quick fixes to try and get his team back on track with the games running out for them this season. 

The defeat at Saracens resulted in Exeter dropping to fifth on the table and facing the prospect of missing out on the end of season playoffs in a tournament where they have contested the last six Premiership finals, winning the title twice.  

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The Breakdown | Episode 10 | Sky Sport NZ
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The Breakdown | Episode 10 | Sky Sport NZ

Slade went head-to-head against England skipper Owen Farrell last weekend at the StoneX and he helped Exeter into a 15-10 interval lead before they were overhauled in the second period, Saracens going on to win 38-22. 

Shifting Slade in from the midfield position he occupied in the two-legged European clash with Munster and trying to roll back the years at out-half was a positional gamble that intrigued Goode, the ex-England No10, and he shared his thoughts on the latest episode of The Rugby Pod on how he felt the experiment worked out. 

“It’s an interesting one,” he opened. “When they ultimately had their success, Joe Simmonds was captain and fly-half and playing unbelievably well. Now this year early on his form wasn’t great. He got dropped and Harvey Skinner played ten a fair bit. I played against Slade at ten years ago when he was first bursting onto the scene and we played Exeter against Wasps at our place and I was like, ‘God, that is some player at ten’. 

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“It was around him and (Gareth) Steenson at ten and they gave him a load of goes and it didn’t really work as Steenson was the ten and the kicker and all this stuff. They fitted him into the centre because he is a bit of a flair player as well, so perhaps didn’t first the mould of an Owen Farrell type ten that can lead a team. 

“Henry Slade had his moments at the weekend of brilliance but he is not a controlling ten, so that is why he went away from it and made himself into an unbelievable centre, but I always enjoy watching him play at ten. The reasons behind it, who knows? Exeter are not at it as a team so maybe they are trying to look at some fixes around trying different combinations to try and find that magic ingredient. 

“I know (Tom) Hendrickson and (Ian) Whitten played in the centres, was it about the power of those two? I think it possibly was, getting two big lumpy centres in there. (Saracens’ Nick) Tompkins is a real handful to deal with. But yeah, it was a really interesting selection.

“Exeter have two games left, Bristol away and at home to Harlequins. They can still get ten points, Rob Baxter said after the game, and a lot of those teams in the middle are playing each other as well. They can still make the playoffs. Will they make it? They have got to get ten points to do it because it is out of their hands.” 

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