13th August 2015
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The 22-year-old back is poised to win his maiden international cap when Stuart Lancaster’s side take on Les Bleus in the first of three warm-up games ahead of this autumn’s Rugby World Cup.

Slade, who is joined in the current England training squad by fellow Chiefs Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jack Nowell and Geoff Parling, enjoyed a stellar campaign last season, winning both Premiership Rugby’s and the Rugby Players’ Association Young Player of the Year awards.

Equally at home playing for the Devon club at either fly-half or centre, Slade’s versatility brought him very much on the radar of Lancaster, who last term drafted him into England’s Six Nations training squads, as well as giving him outings for the Saxons and in the non-capped fixture with the Barbarians back in May. 

On Saturday, however, the Plymouth-born back will be given his chance to impress when he lines up alongside fellow debutant Sam Burgess in the England midfield.

He will be joined in the England starting line-up by summer signing Parling, whilst Cowan-Dickie will be hoping to win his first senior cap should he be given the nod from the bench.

Hepher – who has worked closely with Slade ever since he came into the professional ranks at Sandy Park – believes it’s no surprise the player is being tipped for the top and is confident he can fulfil his full potential.

“If Henry can put in a star performance then I am sure it would be very hard to ignore him,” said Hepher.

“We all know the qualities he has got and I only expect them to get better on the international stage when he has top-quality players around him. I’m sure he’ll shine even more.

“It is a great time to get a great chance to stand out and make a real push for that World Cup squad, which is what is on everyone’s minds at the moment.”

Equally, Hepher believes Cowan-Dickie can do just as well, following in the studmarks of fellow Cornishman and close pal Nowell, who has thrived since being given his chance on the international stage.

Hepher added: “Saturday gives Luke an opportunity ahead of the World Cup too, and both him and Henry are certainly capable of playing at that level.

“Those guys have worked really hard over the last few years. We always knew they had a fair bit of talent, but they have obviously backed that talent up. Talent coupled with that work ethic means that they are now setting the example.

“I’m pretty convinced with the drive that Henry and Luke have got, they can hopefully cement a place in the next couple of years and kick on from there. It’s definitely a great moment for the club.”

Seeing local lads prosper at international level is something the Chiefs have touted for some time – and the work being put in by the club’s academy over a number of years is now bearing fruit with the emergence of such talent.

“It is great for the Devon and Cornwall area to have a focal Premiership club now which they can all aspire to,” continued Hepher. “We have always known this is a great area for rugby – it always has been – but in the past quite often guys would have gone up to Gloucester or Bath.

“It is even more inspiring to the younger guys now that they know they can achieve great things.”

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