Slater glad to be back among the heavy mob

Ed Slater insists he left Leicester on his own terms after agreeing to be part of the controversial swap deal that saw Gloucester wing Jonny May head to Welford Road.

Slater reveals he could have dug-in at Tigers and seen out the final year of his contract. However, the opportunity to play regular rugby and be a leading figure in Johan Ackermann’s Kingsholm revolution persuaded the respected lock to head south.

Slater, 29, insist he has no regrets, telling The Rugby Paper: “I saw a few Leicester lads last week and they said how strange it was to see me in red and white, but the circumstances are what they are and I’m just glad to be at a club where I can play and contribute.

“I didn’t see the move coming and I had a year left, so my first reaction was I wanted to stay at Leicester. But it quickly became evident that Gloucester were really keen to get me here and give me an environment where I could try and use my experience.

“I didn’t have any gripes with Leicester, they got the player they wanted in Jonny May and I haven’t got the raw end of the deal by any stretch; I’m actually pretty happy with the direction Gloucester are going and the impact Johan Ackermann is making here.”

Slater added: “When I was weighing everything up, I could have stayed at Leicester if I’d desperately wanted to, but that would have been just cutting off my nose to spite my face.

“The first things I looked at here at Gloucester were the history of the club, tradition, support and stadium – and they’re all very similar to Leicester and tick the boxes.

“Obviously Leicester have a few more seats, but as rugby clubs they’re very similar in the way they’re really important to the local community. You want to play in stadiums that are full of noise and that was a big driver for me in coming to play at Gloucester.

“I’ve been an away player at Kingsholm many times and more often than not came away on the right end of the result, but the atmosphere at the end of the Exeter game last week was incredible and if we keep that buzz going we’ve got the resources to do well.”

Slater has been recruited by Gloucester to add grunt to a forward pack that for far too long has  been viewed as something of an easy touch by visiting sides – a fact he readily admits after regularly being on the winning side at Kingsholm with the Tigers.

He explained: “Johan’s passion is forward play and I’ll certainly be trying to bring to bear some of the experience I gained during my seven years at Leicester.

“When I came here at the start of last season as a Leicester player, we won the game by taking on Gloucester’s pack through the driving maul after been 20-odd points down.

“That was a target for us, but I think there’s been a shift here now. We’ve got a few new guys in Ruan Ackermann, who made a big impact against Exeter, and Fraser Balmain, below, who I think was a very underrated prop at Leicester, so the quality up front is here.

“Johan’s very aware of how he wants his teams to play and his expectations; he’s very honest and straight down the line, which is all you can ask of a coach.

“He’s obviously got the calibre coming from the Lions so when you put the whole package together, he and Gloucester have got everything to be successful and the onus is on the players now to take some real responsibility and accountability on how we’re playing the game and backing that up week-by-week.”

Three years ago, Slater was fighting for an England place on the tour of New Zealand. However, successive knee injuries intervened and he concedes his international hopes are now over after receiving no encouragement from England boss Eddie Jones.

Slater said: “I’ll be honest, I’ve given up on that. I probably wasn’t driving for it as hard as I could have done once I’d passed my injuries so that ship has sailed.

“Other people got in ahead of me and they’ve done very well; they’ve gone on to play for the Lions and been very successful with England, so I’ve got no grievance with that. I’ve never had any contact from Eddie Jones so that’s a pretty clear message.

“You’ve got that group of George Kruis, Maro Itoje, Joe Launchbury and Courtney Lawes  with Charlie Ewels and Nick Isiekwe in behind. Isiekwe has real ability and could push for the World Cup, but he needs to break in at Saracens first.”

As the luck of the fixture list would have it, Gloucester travel to Leicester this Saturday and Slater will relish his return to Welford Road. However, he expects a Tigers backlash after being on hand last week to see his old side lose their first home game to Bath.

Slater added: “I still have a lot of love for the place and put a lot of emotion into it during my time there, so that certainly won’t disappear overnight.

“However, I never really got an opportunity to say goodbye to the supporters as I would have liked so I’m looking forward to going back. But Leicester will still be reeling after losing to Bath and they’ll be desperate not to lose successive home games.

“I fully expect they’ll be ramping up the intensity and I know exactly what their messages will be, so it’s a massive challenge but it’s one we’ll relish.”


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