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"Feyi-Waboso is still adjusting to the changes that come with being in the spotlight."
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“Feyi-Waboso is still adjusting to the changes that come with being in the spotlight.”

Steve Borthwick has often said Immanuel Feyi-Waboso is taking everything about his rapid rise to the international stage in his stride and though his performances back that up the 21-year-old winger has a confession to make. Asked if anything has fazed him he says: “All of it. All the hotels we stay at. The food, the chefs, everywhere we go. Chartered flights. Coaches, players, being around all the big names and seeing them every day. It’s still weird.”

It is not surprising to hear someone who has played 18 games for Exeter and 3 for England, and has recently performed exceptionally well in their first start against Ireland, speak openly about the transition. Less than a year ago, they were playing for Taunton in National League One but on Saturday they were one of the top performers in England’s most impressive win under Borthwick.

Recently, there have been other young wingers who have been introduced to the England team. However, while Henry Arundell often found himself on the sidelines, Feyi-Waboso has been able to benefit from the fact that Borthwick’s team prefers a more expansive style of play and he actively seeks out the ball. During the match against Ireland, he made nine carries for a total of 70 metres – being surpassed by only George Furbank and Ben Earl – and he also demonstrated strong defensive skills. In fact, it was his run down the right side in the last minute that allowed England to enter Ireland’s 22 and set up the winning points for Marcus Smith.

Feyi-Waboso reflects on the rollercoaster of emotions she experienced during the entire event, from the highs to the lows. She admits that she was surprised to hear the song ‘Swing Low’ playing in the stadium, as she was in a focused state on the field. However, during breaks in the action, she couldn’t help but be filled with excitement when the song played. She even admits to getting goose bumps when she heard it while playing on the pitch.

“It does get you up. It felt like we were in control of that game. Amazing. Even now it’s a fairytale.

“At first, I was quite anxious the day prior. However, the coaches provided clear instructions and a general idea of what to expect. When they emphasized the importance of getting the ball in my hands, I felt much more at ease.”

Immanuel Feyi-Waboso gets hugs from family after the Six Nations match between England and Ireland at Twickenham Stadium in London, England on 9 March 2024View image in fullscreen

Making Feyi-Waboso’s performance all the more impressive, he missed the training camp in York in the second fallow week of the Six Nations to take a medical exam at Exeter university. “Practicals on actors with examiners in the room,” he says, but nothing compared to Saturday. “A lot less stressful, a lot less.

The match against Ireland was a wild ride of feelings. The pace was much quicker and the physicality was heightened. Errors seemed to have serious consequences, especially against Ireland’s skilled team. However, our team stayed united. Whenever we did make mistakes, we regrouped and focused on the next task at hand.

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His initial performance was particularly enjoyable as he had the opportunity to celebrate at Twickenham with a large group of family members – “I believe there were 11 of us” – and the controversy surrounding his decision to play for England rather than his birth country of Wales has subsided. He shares, “My Welsh friends have become less agitated.” He adds, “I am relieved that the situation has calmed down and it appears that people have moved on from it. It was a bit difficult for a few weeks, but I decided to distance myself from social media. The situation was more heightened leading up to the Welsh game, but it eventually died out.”

“It has been quite a journey. When I first joined the Chiefs last year, they told me that I would be placed on loan in Nat 1 with Taunton. I had to work hard to prove myself to the team during pre-season with the Chiefs before finally earning my spot on the team. From there, I quickly moved up to the next level.”

Source: theguardian.com