"Internationals are a step-up" - Prop Fin Baxter recalls his England debut against the All Blacks - Ruck

“Internationals are a step-up” – Prop Fin Baxter recalls his England debut against the All Blacks

Fin Baxter is now officially an England international, as the 22-year-old made his Test debut against the All Blacks last Saturday. The Harlequin has long been a sort after call-up for England fans and pundits alike, with the break-through prop’s due diligence earning him his maiden cap, as England took a narrow defeat in Dunedin.

However, Baxter was introduced to the pitch ahead of schedule, having been named amongst the replacements for a second half involvement. His Harlequins mentor Joe Marler started in the number one shirt, yet vacated the Forsyth Barr Stadium around the 20-minute mark, as he picked up a severe foot injury. With Marler out of action, Baxter could well get his first senior start this Saturday at Eden Park, in what would be a bucket-list career accomplishment for the young front-rower.

England A player Fin Baxter (Harlequins) attacking during the International rugby match between England A and Portugal at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on February 25th- PHOTO: Steve Bond/PPAUK

However, Baxter has to compete against Sale loose-head Bevan Rodd for the starting spot, as well as incoming call-up Emmanuel Iyogun from Northampton Saints. Borthwick has given Iyogun the green light for the 18,000km flight across the world, and will join up with the squad on Tuesday. Baxter headed down to the media mix zone after his England debut, and expressed how despite being proud of his hour-long outing, his main focus is on the result.

“I am so proud to represent England. I am so proud to have put in a good shift, but obviously the closeness of the game is gutting. Personally to make my debut it is special.”

“I just got on with it (early substitution). Those are the cards that you are dealt and you don’t need to think, you just need to do.”

“Internationals are a step-up, no doubt about it. That’s what we have been trying to do in training, trying to create that tempo and physicality. It definitely helps.”

Fin Baxter of Harlequins before the Gallahgher Premiership match between Saracens and Harlequins at The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London on 25 March 2023 (Photo: Micah Crook/PPAUK)

Despite being without Marler’s on-field tutelage for the foreseeable future with England and Harlequins, Baxter will still take valuable lessons from the 34-year-old. Baxter explained how Marler and his long time running buddy Dan Cole have offered invaluable advice, which the young prop will continue to apply ahead of the second Test against New Zealand.

“Yeah brilliant. Through the prep camps and Japan week, he (Joe Marler) has been brilliant. Coley’s (Dan Cole) been brilliant. Everybody has been so supportive and helpful and it’s only made me better.”

“I didn’t want to come into it setting expectations because it’s going to be what it’s going to be. As long as you are being proactive and not reactive, I wanted to be keep moving, run as hard as I could, hit as hard as I could in the scrum.”

“Dad’s here (too). It was nice to see him, he arrived yesterday. I don’t like talking to Dad before the game, he gets very excited. But I will see him now, it means the world.”

England A player Alfie Barbeary (Bath Rugby) passes to England A player Fin Baxter (Harlequins) during the International rugby match between England A and Portugal at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on February 25th- PHOTO: Steve Bond/PPAUK

Baxter made sure to put his arm round his Harlequins teammate, as Marcus Smith was disappointed with his performance against the All Blacks. The fly half left some critical points out on the pitch with two missed penalties and a skewed conversion, that would have altered the outcome of the match had the ball sailed through the posts.

However, Baxter recognises that one man can not carry the burden of a team defeat, and elevated the pressure off of his teammate’s shoulders. The whole England team was devastated to have been beaten so narrowly in Dunedin, which is a testament to how the side is continuing to grow, with the attention now turned towards Auckland’s Eden Park.

“The boys are frustrated obviously with it being so close but we’re talking about next week. 

“It is not down to one man. As much as he (Marcus Smith) does have that magic, it is not down to him. It is down to the team. We’re different aspects, not just him.”

“Absolutely. What a place (Eden Park). It is such a great opportunity. There’s no reason why we can’t go there and win.”