14th August 2015
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The young Chiefs duo are set to win their first international caps when Stuart Lancaster’s side kick-off the first of three warm-up games ahead of the upcoming Rugby World Cup.

Having progressed from age group level through to that of senior squad members, Slade and Cowan-Dickie – together with club colleagues Parling and Jack Nowell – know they are all within touching distance of being part of Lancaster’s grand plans for this autumn’s tournament.

With Lancaster having already trimmed his initial training squad, every England player knows the importance of the upcoming games with France (home and away) and Ireland (home) to stake their claim ahead of the final selection on August 31.

And having been working closely with both Slade and Cowan-Dickie through England’s punishing pre-season programme, which included a two-week camp in Denver, Parling is confident both players can rise to the occasion.

“It’s a brilliant experience for the lads,” he said. “Not only is it their first cap, but it’s the first game in the build up to a home World Cup. Add into that it’s a home game at Twickenham, I think it will be pretty special for both of them.”

Parling, meanwhile, is well versed in the big-match atmosphere and although he’s yet to have a word with either about what to expect, he has promised to have a ‘quiet word’ before their debut bow.

“I probably should have had a word,” he joked. “However, everything I have seen from them has impressed me. They maybe young, but they’ve got pretty mature heads on their shoulders. Someone like Sladey, you see how he performed last season and you know he will step up.

“With him playing at centre, that may well take a bit of pressure off him rather than had he started at 10, but whatever happens I am sure they will be excited to get out there and play some good rugby.”

The excitement, however, is not restricted to the young Exeter bucks – indeed Parling himself is relishing the opportunity of tackling Les Bleus and putting down his own marker with Lancaster.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Parling, who joined the Chiefs this summer from Aviva Premiership rivals Leicester Tigers. “The games have come about at the right time as there is only so much conditioning and gym work you can do before you’re bursting at the seams to go out and play.

“As I said, I can’t wait for the weekend and being at Twickenham and playing again. You can do all the training you want, the real test comes in games.”

Just what French team turns up tomorrow remains to be seen – particularly as the last meeting between the two ended up in a Six Nations points’ fest that England ultimately won 55-35.

Parling, though, doesn’t expect this latest match up to be quite as frantic, adding: “It [the game] was an anomaly. It was played at an unbelievable pace. We knew we had a target points wise and the structure of the game was different to how it's normally played. 

"They took a lot of quick line-outs  - I think in the first 60 minutes they had something like two lineouts that weren't quick – and normally when you play against France the ball's off the pitch a little bit longer than other teams. I don't think it'll be like that.

“With this being the first warm-up game, it’s different in terms of our normal prep because you normally have a lot more to work with. This is different because it’s more of the unknown I guess.”

But whilst Parling and his team-mates will have a decent inkling into the French, it’s more what England do and how they perform that is uppermost in the minds of those associated with the Red Rose.

“A lot of people have asked about the pressure [inside camp], but I think a lot of the players aren’t feeling the pressure, we just want to play,” added Parling, who will win his 24th international cap tomorrow.

“We’ve enjoyed the camp so far and we just want to go out, play and win. We all want to be part of that and move on week to week. Right now the focus is solely on Saturday. Honestly, a lot of the lads are not feeling the external pressures that a lot of people are talking about.

“We’re excited, of course, and obviously we know something big is around the corner that we want to be part of, but it’s this weekend that matters most. Once you get a chance to play it has to be your sole focus. If you’re thinking about anything else, you’re not going to do yourself justice at the weekend. It’s an old cliché, but you have to take each game as it comes, week by week.”


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Dave B

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