- Leicester Tiger says the midweek team will be full of leaders
- Slater wants individuals to make points within team framework
A modest Ed Slater says he will have a team full of leaders as he captains England against the Crusaders tomorrow in Christchurch, and the Leicester Tiger believes a tough midweek outing is a perfect platform for his players to prove their worth to Stuart Lancaster.
Slater enjoyed a superb season at Welford Road, skippering Richard Cockerill’s East Midlands outfit to an Aviva Premiership semi-final and catching the eye with a series of domineering individual displays from lock.
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After being asked to take the reins by Lancaster this weekend – a conversation he admits was “pretty short” – the 25-year-old is charged with guiding the tourists to a first win in New Zealand.
That said, as part of a squad that contains 11 capped internationals, Slater seemed calm and composed when reflecting on the task in hand following a sharp, simple captain’s run.
“We had a word in the changing room just before we came out to talk about how we were going to play tomorrow,” he said.
“I was lucky enough to captain Leicester Tigers earlier in the season, but you never expect [to be asked to captain England]. When Stuart asked me it felt like a huge honour.
“I wouldn’t read into it that much. I’ve had a little bit of experience of doing the job with Leicester so maybe that was a factor. There are guys with a lot more international experience than me, so they will be crucial on the pitch. It’s not just a role for me to take – we will have a lot of leaders out there.”
England Forwards Coach Graham Rowntree conceded that Slater was extremely close to a Test debut in Auckland 10 days ago, praising his blend of physicality and footballing prowess.
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Clearly eager to translate club form into an influential bow for his country, the former Nottingham man explained that the “tempo and intensity” of training would stand the side in good stead, even if some of the match-day 23 had not played since May 14.
Besides, with England now 2-0 down to the All Blacks in the Test series following Saturday’s 28-27 defeat, a victory over the Crusaders can provide a welcome morale boost as well as a shop window for individuals to impress.
“On a personal level it’s a big opportunity,” Slater added. “There are, naturally, some frustrated guys – it is a competitive squad – so Tuesday is a massive occasion for some of those guys to put their stamp on the team and prove a few things.
“We want to do that as a collective and I think we can lift the boys with a win tomorrow. It’s going to be a sell-out and with a great atmosphere so we’re really looking forward to the game.
“I wouldn’t say [the atmosphere around camp after the second Test] was flat, but there’s a sense of frustration. The effort they’ve put in over the past couple of games has been outstanding and they’ve been unlucky to come out on the wrong end of the scoreboard.
“We don’t want to come away with nothing from this Test series and we can help them progress towards that with a win.”