Hepher backs Slade to seize England slot
Henry Slade staked his claim for an England centre berth as he played a starring role in Exeter’s bonuspoint thrashing of Worcester.
Slade – who is seen by national coach Eddie Jones as a candidate for the No 13 shirt – ripped the Warriors to shreds with his vision, handling and kicking game.
The Chiefs scored five tries, with Sam Simmonds getting two and Jack Nowell, Jonny Hill and Olly Woodburn one each, but it was Slade who was the standout.
“I think he’s capable of it,” said Exeter head coach Ali Hepher when asked if Slade was ready to start for England in November. “I think all he’s concentrating on is playing well each week. But the impressive thing with Sladey is that he never gives up the fight. His defensive work is second to none.
“He’s got his nice touches around the park so as an all-round package, he’s coming on well. England are looking at him in midfield and he’s showing a good hand in that area.”
Champions Exeter were the game’s dominant force and fly-half Gareth Steenson ended the night with five conversions and two penalties. Nowell’s try was the pick of the visitors’ efforts, with the England and British and Irish Lions wing crossing in the right-hand corner after an electric break from scrum-half Nic White.
Hill’s score gave Exeter a comfortable 24-3 lead, but to their credit Worcester refused to throw in the towel. The Premiership’s heaviest player, tighthead prop Biyi Alo, powered over from short range at the beginning of the second half, but it proved just a consolation.
Warriors head coach Gary Gold said: “It’s very difficult to swallow that result, but that’s what happens when you make mistakes against the champions – they make you pay. It was a spirited effort. Credit to the guys for their character, but we will carry on as there’s a long way to go.” Africa scrum-half, who is quickly making his presence felt in the Premiership.
Sale led 24-0 at half-time with prop Ross Harrison also touching down for his first try in his 109th appearance for the north-west club.
Irish, who have now lost successive games, did better in the second half and grabbed a penalty try just before Cowan was sent off by referee Wayne Barnes when he dropped a shoulder on an opponent at a ruck. That offence followed a first yellow card in the 54th minute.
Nick Kennedy, Irish’s director of rugby, had no complaints about the decision to send off Cowan and added: “We missed too many tackles in the first half and made a slow start for a second match running.”
Sale finished off through tries by wing Josh Charnley and the man of the match, centre Mark Jennings. Fly-half AJ Macginty also kicked 11 points.