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‘He’s reinvigorated himself’: Rob Baxter on Henry Slade’s England return for the Six Nations

Exeter Chiefs Director of Rugby Rob Baxter says X-factor centre Henry Slade has ‘reinvigorated himself’ this season, which has allowed him to return to the England fold.

Slade was a shock omission from Steve Borthwick’s World Cup squad last year, however the Plymouth-born back has found great form for his club side this year, which has seen him recalled to the national team.

Speaking to members of the media ahead of his side’s clash with Bayonne this weekend, Baxter waxed lyrically about the Chiefs academy graduate.

“Henry Slade getting back into the England set-up is a celebration for him, but it’s a celebration for the team as well.”

“He’s a very, very good player, but he’s certainly reinvigorated himself. He’s certainly playing with a pace and an energy and an enthusiasm and a drive that is very evident.”

“It’s like what we used to see in him when he was a guy striving to get into the England team for the first time.”

Exeter Chiefs Six Nations contingent

Slade isn’t the only Chief to make the England squad for the Six Nations, with young winger Immanuel Feyi-Waboso also being named in Borthwick’s 36-man-squad.

Exeter Chiefs v Glasgow Warriors European Rugby Champions Cup 13/01/2024. Immanuel Feyi-Waboso of Exeter Chiefs during the European Rugby Champions Cup match between Exeter Chiefs and Glasgow Warriors at Sandy Park, Exeter, United Kingdom on 13 January 2024. Exeter Sandy Park Devon United Kingdom Editorial use only , Copyright: xSimonxKingx PSI-18806-0262

Feyi-Waboso has been the subject of an international tug-of-war coming into the Six Nations, but Rob Baxter told the media the club let him make his own mind up on his international career.

“The only conversations we’ve ever had are that they can follow their individual ambitions.”

“There’s never been the pressure from us that, for instance, your contracts get cancelled if you’re not EQP or any situation like that, the only thing they get told is you come to Exeter Chiefs and you live your dreams.”

Baxter also cited Feyi-Waboso’s medical degree as a big factor in his decision to choose England over Wales.

“With Manny, it’s slightly different because one of his dreams is obviously playing international rugby and winning trophies and playing premiership rugby; but another big part of his dream is eventually qualifying to be a doctor. It’s not just always about rugby and he’s got himself relatively settled now at Exeter University.”

“These are all things that people have got to make sure they take into account when they wonder why he’s doing what he’s doing. He’s got big decisions to make as well, but they’re his and not all completely based on picking one country over the other.”

Another Chief named in the England squad is new back-row forward Ethan Roots.

Exeter Chiefs v Glasgow Warriors European Rugby Champions Cup 13/01/2024. Ethan Roots of Exeter Chiefs during the European Rugby Champions Cup match between Exeter Chiefs and Glasgow Warriors at Sandy Park, Exeter, United Kingdom on 13 January 2024. Exeter Sandy Park Devon United Kingdom Editorial use only , Copyright: xSimonxKingx PSI-18806-0146

Roots signed for the Chiefs in the summer from URC side Ospreys, and has gone onto become a key man for Rob Baxter’s side; and the Chiefs DOR had high praises for his new recruit.

“His big attribute is he gets on with things. For us I think he glues a lot of things together. His energy level that he brings, both in being available to carry, make tackles, but also chase and cover tackles, he gets to break downs other guys aren’t getting to. He is a guy who is really gluing our performances together.”

Baxter also believes he can transfer these attributes into the test arena.

“I think those kind of players are key at international level. I think in the early games when you haven’t had a lot of time together as a team, what you need is a guy who can go from action to action to action, who can get on with things no matter what’s happening; whether it’s good or bad.”

“You need guys to be getting on and I think that’s probably a real key attribute for him and that’s obviously a key attribute for a number six, so I think he can tick a lot of boxes for England definitely.”