A standout for the Tigers in 2020-21, particularly under the high ball, the back talks through his rugby journey

Leicester full-back Freddie Steward 

Date of birth 5 December 2000 Born Norwich Position Full-back Club Leicester Tigers Country England

How old were you when you first played? 

Five. Mum and Dad took me down to my local club, Swaffham. My older brother already played there, so before then I’d go down to watch and throw a ball around on the touchline.

Did you play any other sports? 

A lot. I played county cricket for a few years and a lot of hockey. It wasn’t until I was 13 or 14 that the rugby got more serious.

Is that when you linked up with Leicester… 

Yes, at the local DPP (Developing Player Programme) centre in Norfolk. I had a few years there, then I was fortunate to get a place in the academy at U17-18 and I pushed on from there.

Have you always been a full-back? 

I started at fly-half, then inside-centre. Then at 15 I moved to full-back; the academy coaches thought it would be a good idea to see how I went there.

I love being behind the front line – lots of talking and bossing people around! I like the aerial contests and high balls. And I love the kicking battles too.

How have you found the Premiership

It’s been a massive step up but I’ve been introduced slowly, which is really good. It’s not like I was thrown in at the deep end. I’ve built experience gradually. The physicality is the biggest difference – big blokes!

Who was your childhood hero? 

I used to watch Leicester a lot when I was younger and I looked up to Matt Smith, who is now an attack coach here, as a player. Also Geordie Murphy, one of the best full-backs to ever play the game.

Who has been the biggest influence on your career? 

My mum and dad. They’ve spent countless hours watching me play and driving me around the country.

What are your long-term goals? 

At the minute to stay consistent. I want to play in the Premiership for a long time, not be someone who started at 19 then dropped off and never played again. So to be consistent, in and around the starting XV.

What do you do away from rugby? 

I’m studying for a degree in economics at Loughborough. It’s been tough to balance that with rugby but if I didn’t have that I’d just get bored all the time! I’m in my second year and will probably split my final year over two years.

RW Verdict: Steward, who has played for England U18 and U20, has become a regular in the Tigers No 15 shirt since rugby resumed last August. Safe under the high ball and dynamic in attack, he is poised for a long career.

This article originally appeared in the May 2021 edition of Rugby World magazine.

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