First there was Olympic diver Tom Daley – now Plymouth College has produced another exceptional athlete in Exeter and England U18 fly-half Henry Slade. The 18-year-old is juggling his studies in biology, PE and graphic design with playing rugby for the Premiership outfit’s academy. And he’s firmly on England’s radar: having toured South Africa with the national U18 side in 2010, he was a pivotal figure in the party that swept all before them in Australia this August.
Slade kicked 14 points in a 19-8 opening win against Australia Academy U19 and then, after stepping down for a 27-0 win over Australia A Schools, he scored a try and three conversions in a 46-19 rout of Australia Schools in Sydney. All of which delighted England Academy coach John Fletcher. “Henry was very good in Australia,” he says, “and the way he plays reminds me of a young Toby Flood or Rory Clegg.
“Whereas before players had to leave the South-West to play Premiership rugby, there is now no need to do so, and the Chiefs have got a lot of good players in their academy. The future of Exeter rugby is good and Slade will push George Ford for the U20s fly-half position.”
A great nephew of former Portsmouth footballer Geoff Williamson, Slade’s performances have earned him a call-up to this season’s England U20 Elite Player Squad, announced last month by head coach Rob Hunter.
Rugby World Verdict: Slade could help the Chiefs stay in the top flight for years to come. Bea Asprey
A good mentor is cricital to a youngster’s development, and 21-year-old Tom Brown struck gold with his. The full-back has been shadowing Scotland’s sole Test centurion, Chris Paterson, since joining the Edinburgh academy, and he made his debut for the senior side last September in the home victory over Leinster.
However, as valuable as Paterson’s experience has been, he is a tough nut to crack, so his departure for the World Cup in New Zealand last month gave Brown the chance to show what he can do. Brown is strong with the ball in hand and
good in contact, but his greatest asset is his pace. He’s a real threat in attack, and can be seen beating defenders all over the park. His skill-set has been noticed by the national selectors, and he has represented Scotland from U17 to U20 level, going to the Junior World Championships in Japan in 2009 and Argentina in 2010.
Brown was unavailable for selection at the start of the season due to a dead leg, but Scotland’s National Academy coach Bryan Easson has no doubt that he will soon be a regular feature on Edinburgh’s starting team sheet.
“Tom’s a very hard worker and he’s easy to coach,” says Easson. “He’s very popular in the squad and very easy-going, and he’s easily made the transition to playing in the senior side. His kicking game needs work but he’s aware of this and he has the potential to be involved in the 2015 World Cup.”
Rugby World Verdict: A great prospect – Paterson will be looking over his shoulder! Bea Asprey
This article appeared in the November 2011 issue of Rugby World Magazine.
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