Henry Slade has high hopes for Exeter Chiefs
Devon's upcoming star fly-half caught up with Sky Sports to discuss LV=Cup success, Heineken Cup progress and open-top bus parades
By Ben Hampshire | @BH92. Last Updated: 15/05/14 6:02pm
Exeter fly-half Henry Slade helps mark the launch of O2 Touch in universities nationwide
In a season when Exeter Chiefs have claimed their first major silverware and made progress in the Heineken Cup, fly-half Henry Slade revealed he has surpassed all his personal expectations as he continues to become an established name at Sandy Park.
The Devon side did the double over Welsh region Cardiff Blues in the group stages of Europe's premier competition, before clinching a trophy with a 15-8 triumph over Northampton Saints in the Anglo-Welsh Cup final.
Three weeks later, the Chiefs were still on a high as they embarked upon an open-top bus parade through the city.
"02 are trying to get touch rugby into as many universities as they can and it's just a good chance for people who don't necessarily play full contact rugby, it's for all abilities and both genders and you can play anywhere."
"It was quite surreal," Slade recalled as he basked in the spring sunshine at the University of Exeter.
"We were at the top of the street, we'd just got on the bus, and there was nobody there and we just thought it was going to be a long day, but by the time we got down in the middle it was absolutely packed."
Elite sporting success is less frequent in the south west and crowds lined the streets of Exeter. Such scenes hadn't been witness since the Chiefs gained promotion to the Aviva Premiership in 2009, and Slade believes it was important to repay their faithful fans.
"It was a good way for us to pay back the supporters and the people of Exeter for the commitment they've shown to us. It was nice to give them a bit back," the 21-year-old added.
Since gaining top-flight status, Exeter have gone on to gain back-to-back European qualifications and winger Jack Nowell's surge onto the international stage is testament to their progress not going unnoticed.
Nowell, also 21, featured in all of England's 2014 Six Nations matches as they came within touching distance of clinching the trophy, only to be edged out by Ireland, and Slade harbours ambitions of emulating his team-mate.
Slade: Aiming to establish himself at Exeter after a breakthrough season
"A number of us boys have played together coming through the age groups and lived together for the last few years so it's awesome to see them doing well," he said.
"When we came into the first team at Exeter we had each other for support.
"Jack's had an awesome year, started every one of the Six Nations games, it's great to see him doing so well and hopefully some of us guys to follow him in the not too distant future."
After a breakthrough season personally, Slade - who has played for England Saxons and started in last summer's successful Junior World Championships final - refuses to get carried away with talk of international rugby.
Yet while he had been contemplating a summer break, with plans to join up with his brother, who is touring Asia on a gap-year, he will instead keep on playing a little longer after being named in England's initial training squad ahead of the tour to New Zealand.
"It's early stages in my career so I'm just focussing on how I'm playing for Exeter and keeping my place in the team," Slade admitted, not getting too carried away with the chance to impress national boss Stuart Lancaster.
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"I just have to keep my head down and work hard then see what happens.
"This season I've surpassed the expectations I set myself at the start of the year so anything else is just a bonus now."
A disappointing eighth-place finish in the Premiership means Exeter will not feature in the European Champions Cup next term, but Slade believes that should not diminish their achievements over the past campaign.
"I think there are plenty of positives to take from the season, although we haven't had our best finish in the league, it's been close and another year some of those results might have gone our way," he claimed.
"Obviously it's great to get our first bit of silverware in the LV=Cup, that was awesome for the club and it showed how far the club has come in the last few years.
"In the Heineken Cup we progressed further than we have done in previous years. Having teams like Toulon come to Sandy Park is great for the supporters, they've have been there for us the whole way.
"They've been great for us the whole year, home and away, and that just helps us boys on the pitch."
Henry Slade was speaking at the University of Exeter to mark the launch of O2 Touch in universities nationwide. There are over 200 O2 Touch centres across England. Click HERE to get fit and have fun through O2 Touch.