Henry Slade ends speculation about France move by staying at Exeter

Henry Slade has handed Exeter and England a huge boost after pledging his playing future to the Chiefs.

The 31-year-old centre had been subject to speculation that he could head to France, joining players such as fellow England internationals Henry Arundell, Jack Willis and Joe Marchant.

The likes of former England captain Owen Farrell, Bristol prop Kyle Sinckler and Northampton skipper Lewis Ludlam are set to follow suit this summer and play Top 14 rugby next season.

Current regulations do not allow players plying their trade abroad to be selected by England head coach Steve Borthwick.

But Slade, who has been in blistering form this term for club and country, is staying put with a new Chiefs contract.

He has driven Exeter’s Gallagher Premiership play-off push – a bonus-point victory over Leicester on Saturday could see them secure a top-four finish – and is also the league’s leading points scorer.

Slade made his Chiefs debut 12 years ago, featuring 230 times in Exeter colours, while he has also won 62 England caps.

“There were a lot of factors behind my decision to stay at Exeter Chiefs,” he said.

“I joined the academy at 18, so the club is all I have ever really known as a professional rugby player. I feel very lucky to be able to say I have represented the club over 200 times.

“I call Exeter my home. I’ve started a young family here – my eldest daughter starts school in September – so it just felt right to stay.

“The club has been my whole adult life, so I just didn’t feel like it was time to go.

“There is an extremely strong group coming through now, and I am relishing being one of the senior boys in among a group with so much potential to do some great things.

“Wanting to see what I could achieve with a new group did serve as a bit of a refreshener, as it posed a new challenge.

“I have been here for 12 years with a lot of the same faces, and it felt like a very different club this year. Coming into pre-season, it was an exciting challenge.”

Slade was a shock omission from England’s World Cup squad last year, but he responded in outstanding fashion and regained a midfield place for this season’s Guinness Six Nations.

He has also proved instrumental to the development of exciting young players like Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, Harvey Skinner and Josh Hodge at Sandy Park.

Exeter rugby director Rob Baxter said: “We obviously feel that we have got a team that is really going to grow over the coming seasons, but the truth is Henry is probably the key-stone to the process.

“For us, he has been an important player for years. He has been fantastic this season in working very hard himself and setting such high standards for himself.

“He has been a great leader for us and guided a strong, youthful team to do well in both Europe and the Premiership.

“He is one of the best players in the Premiership, and looks like he could end up with the golden boot.

“He is back in the England set-up, he is going well and is a real leader. I can’t speak highly enough of him in terms of how good he has been.

“He has grown this year with the additional responsibility he’s been given. He has moved his game forward.”

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