Exeter boss backing ‘calm character’ Immanuel Feyi-Waboso to thrive with England

By Sports Desk January 18, 2024

Exeter boss Rob Baxter has backed “calm character” Immanuel Feyi-Waboso to make the most of his opportunity with England.

The 21-year-old Exeter wing was born in Cardiff and spoke with Wales defence coach Mike Forshaw ahead of this season’s Guinness Six Nations Championship.

But Feyi-Waboso also qualified for England, and he has taken that route, being named among seven uncapped players in Steve Borthwick’s squad for the tournament.

The Exeter University medical student has excelled in Chiefs colours this season, scoring some memorable tries and consistently proving a handful for opposition defences.

Feyi-Waboso will potentially be up against the likes of Elliot Daly and Tommy Freeman for a starting place against England’s opening Six Nations opponents Italy on February 3.

And Baxter believes he will thrive in the England environment, having impressed him at every turn this term.

“He has maintained decent form on the field, hence his call-up, and he is a calm character on the whole. I would like to think he will take it in his stride,” Baxter said.

“At the same time, you get relatively short time in the England camps to prove a point, so he is going to have to step in there and get on with things and drive his own opportunity.

“I think he is just the kind of guy who might well do that. I don’t have any fears for him.

“I think he is a guy with a very bright future in the game, and this is just one of those steps for him.

“One of his dreams is playing international rugby, winning trophies and playing Premiership rugby, but another big part of his dream is qualifying to be a doctor. It is not just always about rugby.

“He is settled at Exeter University and is happy the way the course is going, and with us. Once he goes to play for Wales, that is it, there is no get-out for him.

“If he wants to keep playing internationally, he has to go back to Wales, there is no leeway there for him.

“These are things people have to take into account when they wonder what he is doing. He has got big decisions to make, and it is not all one country over another.

“He has got himself up and running in his medical career. From what I can gather, England were in contact with him earlier than Wales, so there are a few factors.”

Feyi-Waboso will report for England duty next week alongside his Exeter colleagues Ethan Roots and Henry Slade, with Slade being recalled after missing out on the World Cup in France.

Baxter added: “The biggest thing I will say before they leave us after this weekend will be to make sure they are confident being themselves, and the qualities they have shown are the reason they got selected.

“If someone wants to pick you because of the way you play in club rugby, those are the attributes you have to show when you play.

“I always look at 100-cap international players, and nine times out of 10 when you watch them play they play pretty much the same when they play in a club game.

“They have that confidence in the way they play at club level, and if they do that well it transposes well into the international game.

“Henry getting back into the England set-up is a celebration for him, but it is a celebration for the team as well, and I really hope the team feel like that.

“He has almost, not reinvented himself, because he hasn’t had to because he is a very, very good player, but he has certainly reinvigorated himself.

“He is certainly playing with a pace, energy, enthusiasm and drive that is very evident.”

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