Norfolk's new rugby star living the Six Nations dream with England

England's Freddie Steward celebrates after the Autumn International match at Twickenham Stadium, Lon

Norfolk's new rugby star Freddie Steward is in the England squad for the Six Nations - Credit: PA

Norfolk’s rising rugby star Freddie Steward is living the dream with England as he eyes his Six Nations debut amid the fire and brimstone of Saturday’s opener in Scotland. 

The 21-year-old former Holt RFC junior has become a key player for Premiership leaders Leicester Tigers and roared onto the international scene with tries against South Africa and Australia during the autumn. 

As a 16-year-old, Steward told this newspaper ‘that would be the dream’ as he discussed his hopes of following in the footsteps of Ben and Tom Youngs all the way to the pinnacle of their sport. 

“I remember saying that, I do remember that interview,” the powerful back said with a laugh. “To be here with guys like Ben Youngs and Henry Slade, the guys I’ve watched growing up as a kid, it is incredible. 

“But it’s something that I do try not to get too caught up on or to be too starstruck because I don’t want to let that take away from the performance. 

“But it’s been an incredible journey and I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens.” 

Leicester Tigers academy media day - Norfolk players, from left, Luke Phoenix, Thom Smith, Freddie S

Freddie Steward, third from left, with fellow Leicester academy players with Norfolk links in 2017 - Credit: Leicester Tigers

The former Norwich School pupil is alongside Ben Youngs in the Six Nations squad, with the 32-year-old needing two caps to equal Jason Leonard’s record of 114 caps for England. 

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“It’s an environment with some unbelievable players and unbelievable coaches, so it’s a fantastic opportunity to learn and take as much information from everyone,” Steward continued, speaking after a training session earlier this week. 

“The boys have been brilliant, I’ve been working a lot with Elliot (Daly) this week in terms of he’s been playing at full-back for years, so that positioning aspect and information, he’s been fantastic for me. It’s been a brilliant experience.” 

England's Freddie Steward dives to score his team's first try during the Autumn International match

Manu Tuilagi celebrates as Freddie Steward scores for England against Australia in November - Credit: PA

Growing up in Longham, near Dereham, Steward also played for Swaffham as a youngster and has received plenty of support as he has been elevated as part of a new wave of talent building towards the 2023 World Cup in France. 

“It’s been fantastic, Norfolk is a real family,” he continued ahead of the Murrayfield battle. “I’ve got mum and dad back there and I love going home, back to the beach every now and then and seeing my mates back home. 

“So there’s been massive support from Norfolk and I’ve been really grateful for that. It’s a bit of a stronghold, I absolutely love it there.” 

Steward, who only turned 21 last month, cut through Australia from 30 yards out to send Twickenham wild as he kick-started a 32-15 win over Australia in November, as he earned his fourth cap. 

The following week he did it again, needing power to force his way over the line during the early stages of a 27-26 victory over world champions South Africa, being fed by fellow Norfolk native Ben Youngs at HQ. 

With his star on the rise, Steward looks likely to start at full-back in Scotland on Saturday afternoon (4.45pm) as the Calcutta Cup begins the Six Nations for a new-look squad, as Eddie Jones cranks up preparations for the 2023 World Cup. 

“It’s definitely something that I’m looking forward to,” Steward says during a video call after a training session at Pennyhill Park earlier this week.  

“It would be easy to sit here and say I’m nervous. I am nervous about it but it’s not something I’m scared of. 

“I’m really looking forward to that atmosphere and have been growing up watching the Six Nations every year. 

“So to be running out at Murrayfield now will be a really cool experience and is something I’m really looking forward to.” 

England's Freddie Steward (right) celebrates after scoring his team's first try during the Autumn In

Ben Youngs climbs highest as Freddie Steward roars in celebration after scoring for England against South Africa - Credit: PA

The Leicester youngster has been working closely with 52-cap Saracens back Elliot Daly in training this week, who was a late call-up after enforced changes to the squad – a player who created Steward’s favourite Six Nations memory. 

“I was at the Millennium Stadium when Eliot Daly scored in the corner,” he recalls, referring to a 21-16 win in 2017 that contributed to England retaining the title. “I was in that corner there, so that’s probably the one that sticks out. 

“I think I must have been about 15 or 16 at the time and dad managed to get tickets through a ballot because it was on his bucket list to go to the stadium and experience that atmosphere. 

“We were very fortunate to be in that corner where England scored, I think it was in the last two minutes, to win the game. It was absolutely awesome. 

“To be there watching at that age, to now being ready to step out on the field to actually do it, is a bit crazy actually, thinking about it. But it’s an incredible opportunity.” 

He added: “I wasn’t old enough to drink but I remember being drenched in beer from everyone else throwing their pints around.” 

The former Norwich School pupil is from Longham, near Dereham and is likely to be alongside the vast experience of Norfolk’s headline rugby name Ben Youngs. 

The 32-year-old is two caps short of equalling Jason Leonard’s record of 114 caps and also made his Six Nations debut as a 20-year-old back in 2010, a 15-all draw during Martin Johnson’s reign. 

Eight wins and another draw have followed against the old enemy through the years for the former Holt and North Walsham junior before the Scots won 11-6 at Twickenham last year, as only Italy finished below England. 

With the usual raucous atmosphere expected in Edinburgh and wet conditions predicted, Youngs has been sharing his wisdom. 

“Ben was the man who was speaking the most about it,” Steward said. “He’s a massively experienced player with England so he’s done it all. 

“He talked about what to expect, coming off the bus and the hostility, the environment, and he mentioned the fans being quite far away from the pitch. 

“So he talked about his experiences there and how it can possibly affect us and we just have to do our best to block that out.” 

England head coach Eddie Jones speaks to Freddie Steward during a training session at Twickenham Sta

England head coach Eddie Jones speaks to Freddie Steward during a training session at Twickenham - Credit: PA

With wet balls used in training and the high winds provided by Storm Malik, England have been able to prepare fully for opponents guaranteed to be desperate for another win. 

“I’ve not played for England away from Twickenham yet and I’m really looking forward to the experience,” added the youngster. 

“The boys have talked a lot about the atmosphere, especially at Murrayfield, it sounds incredible. So I’m excited to go out there on Saturday.”