Henry Slade admits he has gone from strength to strength after being named Land Rover Discovery of the Season for his stellar role in Exeter Chiefs’ impressive Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign.
The 22-year-old enjoyed a breakthrough year, starring in both the centres and at fly-half, where he took over Exeter’s kicking duties with aplomb during the second half of the season.
Alongside fellow Chiefs Matt Jess and Thomas Waldrom, Slade was one of only three players to start all 22 rounds in Aviva Premiership Rugby this year, with the versatile back scoring 150 points in total.
That run of form saw Slade, who won the World Junior Championship with England in 2013, named in Stuart Lancaster’s 50-man training squad for this year’s World Cup.
And though Slade could not inspire his side to their first Aviva Premiership Rugby semi-finals on a thrilling final day of action, the 2014 LV= Cup winner believes his year has nonetheless been special.
“It has been big, the first real year of starting each week and getting lots of game time," said Slade, speaking at the Aviva Premiership Rugby Awards hosted by the London Hilton on Park Lane.
“Last year I was off the bench a lot, so it's been brilliant to have that sustained gametime to develop, regardless of position.
"We were disappointed at the end just to lose out on the play-off spot, we let a couple of results slip by us during the course of the season. But we can't really be too down about how we’ve done, overall it’s been a very good year.”
Slade managed to fend off a shortlist that contained three fellow England starlets Elliot Daly, Maro Itoje and teammate Jack Nowell, all of whom were also named in Lancaster’s squad. Harlequins back row Jack Clifford was also recognised for his sterling development this year.
And the Exeter prodigy will now be looking to round off his year with a first England cap.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking the first time I was invited into the England camp but every time I've gone, I've felt that little bit more confident and I feel quite at home dropping into it in two weeks,” Slade added.
LAND ROVER DISCOVERY OF THE SEASON SHORTLIST
Henry Slade – Exeter Chiefs
Jack Nowell – Exeter Chiefs
Maro Itoje – Saracens
Elliot Daly – Wasps
Jack Clifford – Harlequins
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