Henry Slade backs England to bounce back against Scotland in Six Nations

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Henry Slade is not worried. Sure, he might be a distance from England’s Six Nations campaign at the moment but he is convinced the mentality is there to recover from a bruising start.

It is something he knows well in himself. Slade has had an injury-hit six months, missing out on the World Cup final with a knock and then finding himself unavailable for the start of the Championship.

In his absence, England began badly. They fell to a 24-17 defeat against France and there have been consistent suggestions since that they are suffering from a World Cup hangover.

Yet Slade, who has been working hard to come back and have an impact later in the tournament, is convinced the pain of that loss to South Africa is not holding them back.

Asked whether they have the mentality to bounce back against Scotland on Saturday, he told Sportsmail: ‘Definitely. That’s one thing about the group of boys in the squad, the mental approach to everything is very good. It’s bang on.

‘I don’t think the weekend was for a lack of effort or a poor mental approach to the game. I think a few things just didn’t go quite right in that first half. There were a few tries out of nothing and then suddenly you’re a few points down and it’s difficult.

‘Just because that game happened then doesn’t mean there’s a hangover from the World Cup. It just happened to happen then. I think the boys have definitely got what it takes to put it right.

‘That’s the good thing about rugby, if it goes badly you have the opportunity six days later to put it right.’

Slade is on his own comeback trail after picking up a serious ankle injury in December. Eddie Jones made it clear after the final in Yokohama he would have picked the 26-year-old for that game if he had been available, and missing out again for the Six Nations has been a blow.

But Slade has seen the upside in the form of a ‘pressure release’: ‘It has been frustrating.

‘Coming back from the World Cup and you have the disappointment of losing the final and you want to get back into it as soon as possible. I was able to do that. I picked up my injury just before Christmas and then it’s a race against time to get fit for the Six Nations.

‘I’ve not quite been able to do that which is frustrating. I watched the boys go out at the weekend and I wanted to be out there. You understand that injuries are part and parcel of it. For the first week or two when you do get injured it’s a bit of a pressure release.

‘When you’re fit you’re playing each weekend and pressure comes with games. The first week or so of an injury is sometimes actually quite nice.

‘You then get into the meat of your recovery and you start seeing the boys go out there each week and you want to be out there with them. It’s frustrating you can’t quite do it yet.

‘I gave myself the timeline of getting back, trying to do it before the Six Nations and I wasn’t quite able to do that. I’m not far away now. The last little bit is annoying because I’m nearly there, I’ve just got to get over the line.’ 

And with a fortnight between the clash with Scotland and England’s meeting with Ireland, Slade will be hoping to don the Red Rose again before too long: ‘(I was) not quite in time for the start of the Six Nations, not this weekend either but I’m hoping to be fit to go if I’m selected for the next one as there’s a two week gap.

‘It does put more pressure on you but it’s good as well. It’s good and bad pressure. You have to work as hard as you can in your rehab to get yourself back fit.

‘It’s the balance between not pushing yourself too hard and giving yourself the motivation to try and get back as soon as possible.’

Slade is an ambassador for Optimum Nutrition and features in the Recover like England Rugby video campaign and is enthusiastic about the product: ‘I can take them with me to training. I have them around my training. It’s good for after gym sessions. 

‘Nutrition is a big part of rugby because you get out what you put in. If you do a lot of training and you’re feeding your body you’re not going to be able to grow and adapt to it. 

‘The ease with which I can take that stuff around my training has done wonders.’

On the club front, Slade is part of an Exeter side that are flying at the top of the Premiership. The Chiefs have, like England, suffered losses in showpieces in recent years.

He’s desperate to put that right: ‘It’d be massive mate. We’ve been to the last four finals and only won one. That’s been pretty frustrating. I keep telling myself I never want to have that pain again. I did that two years ago and the year after we had the same.

‘The World Cup final as well, I felt we just keep losing finals and I don’t want to lose another final ever so, I think, so we definitely have the motivation having experienced what it is like to be on the other side of those results. We definitely don’t want that again.

‘We understand that we can’t take for granted that we’ll get there. It’s a long season and there are lots of top teams. We have to work bloody hard to get there first and then we have to take advantage when we do because these don’t come around all the time.

‘We know how s*** it feels when it doesn’t go our way.’

After half a year in which results and injuries have hit him like a series of waves, Slade knows how it feels more than most. 

Now he’s keen to turn the tide. England could yet benefit before the Six Nations are out.

 

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