Henry Slade on new-look England under head coach Steve Borthwick as well as Marcus Smith being dropped to accommodate Owen Farrell ahead of the Six Nations clash against Italy at Twickenham on Sunday afternoon
Last Updated: 11/02/23 1:19pm
Henry Slade has warned England’s Six Nations rivals that Steve Borthwick’s side are “only going to get better” following their Twickenham defeat to Scotland last weekend.
England are looking to bounce back from their Calcutta Cup defeat in round one when their Six Nations campaign continues against Italy on Sunday.
Head coach Borthwick underlined the role played by Slade’s return to the line-up in unlocking his midfield selection with Marcus Smith dropped to accommodate Owen Farrell’s move from inside centre to the number 10 jersey.
The running skills provided by Slade at 13 is a clear indication that the classy Exeter man will be a key cog in Borthwick’s England.
“I’m feeling really excited about the game against Italy,” Slade told Sky Sports. “A couple of weeks out injured so nice to get back in with the boys.
“We were frustrated with the Scotland result. They played well but there was definitely things we can improve on.
“We’re just starting out as a squad with new coaches coming in and we’ve had a lot of new things thrown at us but we’re only going to get better from here, so although we’re frustrated by the loss, we’re excited by how much there is to work on and how much there is to improve.”
With Ollie Lawrence providing Borthwick’s preferred ball-carrying option at inside centre, Slade is excited with the new-look midfield.
He said: “I think we bring a lot of different strengths and we complement each other. He’s a big, powerful guy and a distributor, so the way we use both our strengths will hopefully be good.
“He’s the guy that’s going to get us over the gain line, while I’m probably more of a guy to get other people into the game on the inside channels or wherever it may be so hopefully we can utilise those options.”
And with Farrell starting at fly-half instead of Smith, Slade said: “Well, he doesn’t have the hop and the skip that Marcus Smith has but in terms of how well they talk and how clear they can give out instructions in what they want to do in attack and defence, not too much difference in that respect.
“Farrell is a great player so excited to get out and hopefully we can do a job.
“No one wants to be dropped but Marcus a great lad, he’s got a good head on his shoulders and obviously a fantastic talent but one of the most impressive things about him is his attitude to things and just to life generally, so I’m sure he’ll take it in the best way.”
Discussing his own 12 months, Slade added: “It’s obviously been a frustrating time or so missing the tour through injury and then on the bench in the Autumn so I’m hoping it’s a fresh start.
“New coaches are in, new start and a new competition. It’s my first game so I’m excited to get going and there’s a lot of opportunity for growth. We’re just starting out and it’s exciting times.”
England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Max Malins, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ollie Lawrence, 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Jack van Poortvliet; 1 Ellis Genge, 2 Jamie George, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 4 Ollie Chessum, 5 Maro Itoje, 6 Lewis Ludlam, 7 Jack Willis, 8 Alex Dombrandt
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Alex Mitchell, 22 Marcus Smith, 23 Henry Arundell.