Exeter Chiefs flyhalf Henry Slade made a solid senior England debut against the Barbarians at Twickenham. Not only did he score a try in the 39-29 defeat, but he showed great courage against an extremely physical Baa Baas side.
With a few names ahead of him in the pecking order, 21-year-old Slade didn’t make it on the plane to New Zealand, but enjoyed what was a tough day at the office. He found himself having to tackle hard-running Rene Ranger on more than one occassion, which resulted in an impressive shiner.
“He is a pretty tough bloke and I was just trying to bring him down, and thankfully I managed to do that, but his knee or one of his boots hit me in the eye,” Slade said post match.
He got his body in the way of the Kiwi center as the Barbarians scored their first try. That opened up a cut that needed stitches, and shortly after returning to the field, Ranger hit him again.
“They made a break down the outside, I tackled Rene Ranger, and either a knee or one of his boots hit me in the eye, and that was it really. I was just trying to get in the way of him and get him down for the second one, and luckily it worked.
“It was just great to be back on the field and to be able to get on with it.”
Slade ended with a try and 16-point haul, something his Jonny Wilkinson would have been proud of. The Chiefs flyhalf has looked up to him for the last ten years, and actually bumped his head on a table when the then England kingpin kicked his famous World Cup winning dropgoal back in 2003.
“When Jonny kicked that drop-goal I was sat underneath at table at Ivybridge rugby club, and I jumped up and smacked my head on it when he scored,” he explained.
“He’s been a massive role model both on and off the pitch too, the way he went about himself and was committed and dedicated to trying to be the best. Defence is so important at fly-half because you’re in the middle of the line, and that’s something certainly Jonny has shown.
“It’s important to be strong there, hopefully I did that at the weekend, that’s what I was trying to do: I do enjoy defending to be fair.”
Ranger’s low center of gravity and powerfully built frame, along with his balance, means that he’ll always be a threat. This weekend he’ll be looking for some Springbok scalps when he starts for the World XV against South Africa at Newlands.
Slade posted this on Instagram after the match, adding:
“Took a bit of a battering yesterday but was a great experience shared with a top bunch of lads”