Exeter Chiefs boss Rob Baxter has revealed the first time he saw England star Henry Slade play, he wasn’t sure he could cut it in professional rugby.
He said: “It would be fantastic as a coach to go ‘Yes, I look at academy players three years before they play for the first team and I know they’re going to be something special’.
“The reality is you hope they’re going to be something special and you see something, then over a period of a couple of years, you see if their work ethic develops and their character, then you start to think that maybe they’ve got it, then they earn opportunities and possibly take them.
“I don’t think I’ve seen any of our players and gone ‘that guy’s going to be a star’. I remember looking at Henry Slade, the first time he did a kicking session with Ali Hepher, and he looked more like a pipe cleaner than he did a rugby player – I said to Ali, are you sure he’s going to be big enough?
“So it shows you everybody looks different and the thing is, some players work really hard to get an opportunity, and when they get an opportunity, they take them.
“Other guys aren’t prepared to work hard enough for an opportunity and never get them, and some guys work really hard but they just can’t take the opportunities.
“What Joe’s done is work really hard and, when the opportunities have come along, he’s taken them.”