- Sloan eager to begin JWC campaign against Italy
- Harlequin set for senior role in England side
Photo: Getty Images
Harry Sloan played in all five of England Under 20’s matches on their route to Junior World Championship glory last summer, but is adamant that neither he nor his teammates will be getting complacent ahead of this year’s tournament opener against Italy next Monday.
Nick Walshe’s charges arrived in New Zealand on Friday and have settled into their surroundings quickly – undergoing a first contact session today followed by a trip around Auckland Harbour in an America’s Cup boat.
Sloan, a burly centre who has already made a handful of senior appearances for Harlequins, says the squad have “hit the ground running” and will be immersing themselves in the country’s rugby-mad atmosphere.
“Obviously we’ve had a few days of recovering from jet lag so it was nice to actually get out there on the pitch today,” he explained. “The lads were really happy about that.
“I couldn’t think of anywhere better to play this Junior World Championship. It’s a special place to play, so everyone’s very excited and looking forward to it.”
Facing the Azzurri first before subsequent pool A clashes with Australia and Argentina could be conceived as a straightforward way to ease into the competition for England, especially considering they beat Italy 52-5 in the last encounter between the sides this March.
However, Sloan – undoubtedly a senior figure within the set-up – insisted that would not be the case.
“I’ve had the experience of playing all five games last year which I am very grateful for and winning it was a very special moment, but this is a brand new year with a brand new group of player so it’s a fresh start. We are in a very good place heading into the first game against Italy.
“We’ve all agreed that we are going to take absolutely nothing for granted. We’ve looked through the clips from that last game and we feel there’s a lot to improve on.
“Despite the scoreline, Italy have a very good defensive system and they are very direct. We need to treat them like any other international team.”
Sloan’s fellow world-conquering alumni are continuing to make waves. Hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie is out in New Zealand competing for a Test berth against the All Blacks and will be joined by Anthony Watson if the Bath Rugby wing recovers from a slight hamstring strain.
Sam Hill will pull on the number 12 jersey against the Barbarians at Twickenham on Sunday too, alongside Exeter Chiefs clubmate Henry Slade – England’s vice-captain for the one-off game.
Sloan predominantly wore 13 alongside Hill throughout 2012/3, but has now reverted to inside centre, forming a midfield partnership with Nick Tompkins. The change might unsettle someone less versatile, but the young Harlequin values the learning experience.
“When you’re playing alongside guys like Tompkins and Hilly, you don’t really mind,” he added. “They are both class players.
“The positions are very different. At 13 you find yourself more exposed in defence, whereas at 12 you are getting more ball and playmaking. Having time in both roles has certainly developed me, but I don’t mind where I’m playing – I just want to be out there on the pitch.
“We’ve got a good few strike moves in the backs going up the middle and we’ll look to execute those as well as we can. That said, when it’s on for the back three, I’ll look to move it as well. It’s about reading the defence and acting accordingly, and hopefully I’ll be able to use my strengths as best I can.”