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Immanuel Feyi-Waboso can be England’s secret weapon, says Slade
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Immanuel Feyi-Waboso can be England’s secret weapon, says Slade

The All Blacks have been warned to watch out for England’s new secret weapon in the first Test in Dunedin on Saturday. New Zealand have not yet encountered the visitors’ fast-rising wing Immanuel Feyi-Waboso and the 21-year-old’s Exeter teammate Henry Slade believes they will be in for “a shock” when the sides meet at the Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Along with everyone else, Slade has been hugely impressed by Feyi-Waboso’s rapid progress for club and country and predicts the home side will be surprised by the latter’s pace, ability and strength in the tackle. “That guy is one of the most freakishly gifted ­athletes I’ve ever seen,” said Slade, who is poised to start at outside-centre against the All Blacks. “People who have never played against him probably underestimate him. The first time he plays against someone he does really well. They [New Zealand] probably wouldn’t have heard much about him or seen much of him. But if he gets on the pitch I reckon he’ll give them a shock.”

Slade has been training and playing alongside Feyi-Waboso all year – “He’s always called me Grandpa Slade” – and says there was a specific moment during a league fixture at Newcastle in November when he realised he was watching a truly special talent. “It wasn’t in training that I first got hit by it. It was Newcastle away. He got the ball in his own half and took off through two blokes without breaking stride. They just hit the floor and then he rounded the full-back and scored. I was a bit shocked as I ran after him to celebrate. I was thinking: ‘This guy is very, very special.’

“He seemed to keep doing stuff like that week after week. I try my best to keep his feet on the ground, obviously. I give him a bit of stick every day. But it’s great to have someone like that in the team. Someone who can make something out of nothing. That’s what you need to win big games.”

England are seeking to attack with greater purpose in all areas, having recognised they have wide players capable of causing any defence problems if they are given enough quick ball. “We have put more emphasis on the way we want to attack,” said Slade, who picked up the award for Gallagher Premiership player of the season while Feyi-Waboso received the young player prize.

“Some of the players in the team have got unbelievable x-factor, ­talent, speed and power. It’s about getting the ball out to boys like Manny and Tommy Freeman. They’re unbelievable runners so we want to get the ball into their hands to see what they can do. We started to do that towards the end of the Six Nations campaign. Long may it continue.”

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England’s Test record in New Zealand has been nothing to write home about over the past two decades but Slade believes domestic standards have been steadily rising which, in turn, is now ­strengthening the national team. “The Six Nations campaign was one of the more positive ones I’ve been involved in. There are so many good young players coming through. I do think the standard of the Premiership now is as good as it’s been. There’s some real competition right across it. Every team is tough. You can’t relax for one minute.”

Source: theguardian.com