ENGLAND head coach Stuart Lancaster believes the “fantastic potential” of Henry Slade will drive his challenge for a place in the World Cup squad.
Slade has been called up as midfield cover ahead of Saturday’s RBS 6 Nations clash with Scotland after centre Brad Barritt was ruled out of the remaining two rounds by a sprained ankle.
Only a late flurry of injuries would see Slade plunged into action in the Calcutta Cup match at Twickenham, but that has not stopped Lancaster looking to the looming World Cup and its warm-up games as the right time to blood the 21-year-old centre and fly-half.
Superb game management, accomplished kicking skills and solid defence have established Slade’s reputation in the Aviva Premiership with the Exeter Chiefs and the wait for full international honours may soon be over.
“The more I see him, the more I think he’s got fantastic potential. I’ve always known it having seen him come through the age-group teams,” Lancaster said.
“We have a lot of competition at fly-half, but he’s also adept in the centres. That’s one of the options I’d like to look at for him in the future. For definite he’ll be a part of our World Cup camp.
“In your World Cup squad of 31, you absolutely have to have players who can play in different positions like Henry. You need that flexibility, it’s crucial.
“We will have to generate training time before we throw him into a game at international level.
“In the very short term we have a chance to do that on Tuesday and Wednesday, which we’ve done anyway when he’s been in camp.
“This Six Nations programme is going to finish in 12 day’s time and then our World Cup camp starts on June 21. Then we’ve got all of June, July and August until we have to make a decision.
“Someone like Henry can be reasonably confident of being there or thereabouts.”
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