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England boost as Exeter confirm Henry Slade is available for trip to Montpellier

The PA news agency understands the centre has now had a Covid-19 vaccination.

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Henry Slade is available for Exeter’s Champions Cup clash on Sunday despite previously stating he would not be getting the Covid vaccine (Steve Haag/PA)

Henry Slade is available for Exeter’s Champions Cup clash on Sunday despite previously stating he would not be getting the Covid vaccine (Steve Haag/PA)

Henry Slade is available for Exeter’s Champions Cup clash on Sunday despite previously stating he would not be getting the Covid vaccine (Steve Haag/PA)

Henry Slade’s availability for England’s Guinness Six Nations away fixtures against Italy and France has been confirmed after Exeter revealed he is in contention to play in Montpellier on Sunday.

Slade, a type 1 diabetic, stated in May that he would decline the Covid vaccine, questioning whether “you can trust it” and pointing to the extensive testing programme in place at Gallagher Premiership clubs.

The 28-year-old later clarified those remarks that appeared in a national newspaper interview, revealing that because of his medical status he had experienced “issues in the past with the use of vaccines”.

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Henry Slade has cemented his place in England’s midfield and was in outstanding form during the autumn (Adam Davy/PA)

Henry Slade has cemented his place in England’s midfield and was in outstanding form during the autumn (Adam Davy/PA)

PA

Henry Slade has cemented his place in England’s midfield and was in outstanding form during the autumn (Adam Davy/PA)

It raised the prospect that England’s first-choice outside centre would be ruled out of the Six Nations trips to Italy and France, where Covid passes are compulsory to take part in any sporting event.

But Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter has revealed that Slade can be selected for this weekend’s Heineken Champions Cup clash with Montpellier at the GGL Stadium in France and the PA news agency understands he has now been vaccinated.

“Henry’s available, yes. Put it this way, if you don’t see him picked it won’t be because he’s injured, unless he gets injured in training,” said Baxter, who names his team at Friday lunchtime.

“The truth is, and I know Henry doesn’t mind me saying this, Henry never said he wasn’t going to get vaccinated.

“He said at the time he wanted to see what the situation was and that was months and months ago. That’s all I’m prepared to say.

“He never said he wasn’t going to have it, he said he wanted to see what the situation was. Everybody else seems to have surmised what they want from that.”

Slade was included in Eddie Jones’ 36-man squad that will gather for a training camp in Brighton next week to begin preparations for the Six Nations opener against Scotland on February 5.

He produced some of the best form of his international career during the autumn, most notably in a creative display in the series-ending victory over world champions South Africa.

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Exeter won the Champions Cup in 2020 (David Davies/PA)

Exeter won the Champions Cup in 2020 (David Davies/PA)

PA

Exeter won the Champions Cup in 2020 (David Davies/PA)

An ever present in Exeter’s backline this season, as well as an occasional captain, he is likely to be retained in midfield against Montpellier in his last outing for the Chiefs before joining up with England.

Baxter revealed that any disruption to his team selection caused by France’s Covid pass requirement will be minimal.

“We have not got any players with medical exemptions so there is no Novak Djokovic situation, that’s all I can say,” said Baxter in reference to Serbian tennis player Djokovic being unable to play in the Australian Open after having his visa revoked.

“It has had virtually no effect on us. It is not for me to discuss players’ medical status, you will see the team.

“We are pro vaccine and the large, large majority of our players are. We have not got an issue going to France based on our vaccinations.”


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