Immanuel Feyi-Waboso has taken the Premiership by storm this year and his great form came to fruition last Saturday as he made his England debut in Italy.
He is now in line to come off the bench against Wales this weekend in a fixture that carries some extra significance for the Exeter Chiefs winger.
Before his first cap in Rome, Cardiff-born Feyi-Waboso did qualify to play for Wales but he decided to pursue a career with England over the country of his birth.
When asked whether he considered standing the 21-year-old down for Saturday’s Six Nations clash at Twickenham, England boss Steve Borthwick said: “No. I thought he came on last weekend and did really well.
“He has been an incredibly calm, composed, mature character. He has trained super well. In the little time I have known him, he doesn’t seem to get fazed.”
“I have been impressed with all of the new guys who have come into the squad, Manny in particular,” England skipper Jamie George added. “He is a very confident guy. Like Steve said, he isn’t fazed by anything, relishes the big occasion and he is very excited this week in particular, I know that! The way he has been fitting into the team is credit to him.”
"I just think that it's showing how proud you are to be Welsh. If you don't want to be Welsh then p*** off.”— Rugby on TNT Sports (@rugbyontnt) February 8, 2024
?????????????? Wales Head Coach Warren Gatland addressed rumours of any bad blood after Immanuel Feyi-Waboso declared for England. #GuinnessM6N pic.twitter.com/Xj6FfRw7gM
The fact Feyi-Waboso will have the opportunity to face Wales in the Six Nations probably best encapsulates the rise of the exciting winger.
Less than 12 months ago, he was on loan at Taunton Titans in National One and head coach Tony Yapp told TRU: “From our point of view, it doesn’t surprise me he has been picked for England.
“I know only 12 months ago he was playing at Taunton, but even in the short time he was with us, you could tell he was a special player, very physical, a balanced runner, and on top of that he was also a really good guy, very humble and a big part of the squad.”
Yapp’s description of Feyi-Waboso ties in with that of Borthwick and George, even if his time at Veritas Park was brief.
The winger played seven times for the club, scoring three tries and he also experienced a loan spell with then National Two North side Stourbridge in 2021/22.
“I would like to see him get more game time as when he gets in there and settles and his confidence grows on the international stage, he can be there for a long time,” Yapp added after Feyi-Waboso came on for only three minutes last Saturday.
If Borthwick’s side can build on the attacking structures from last week and the game starts to open up against Wales, having the Exeter man coming off the bench could be incredibly dangerous, something which is obvious to Yapp: “For anyone watching Manny’s game, its clear he’s a great broken-field runner, he’s strong and very physical, got great footwork and he’s quick.
Yapp and Taunton continue to have a strong link with Exeter Chiefs - with the likes of full-back Noah Fenton gaining valuable minutes and experiences with the National One club - and the Titans boss added: “Sometimes players are in a full-time environment and not in a position to play every week and what clubs in National League One and the Championship can give is game time which is what the players need.
“From our point of view, when we get someone like Manny come in, it’s great as he’s a true professional and great guy, very coachable and sets a high standard so is great to have around the squad.”
For Taunton, Feyi-Waboso is the second player in recent years who has gone on to the international stage, with Scotland’s Sam Skinner having spent time on loan with the club before breaking into the Exeter side. “As soon as he came in, it was clear there was something about him,” Yapp said of Skinner, who claims a spot on the bench as the Scots host France this Saturday.
Yapp, of course, will be an avid spectator on Saturday and plans to watch Feyi-Waboso after Taunton’s crucial game against Sedgley Park in the clubhouse with the whole squad.
“Crazy to think the guy running round on TV was running around on pitches behind us”, Yapp said. “Hopefully it inspires other players as well so people know that there is opportunity playing in National League One and the Championship as they are a good standard and there a loads of players playing around National League One and the Championship that will go on to bigger and better things.”
Due to Feyi-Waboso’s talent, the level of media attention on the young winger will mostly likely continue beyond Saturday’s match with Wales and Yapp believes the noise surrounding him this week - and going forward - won’t affect the 21-year-old.
“There is a pressure playing at international level but I think he is a player who can take it all in his stride and he’s a great character and he will go in, roll his sleeves up and work hard like he does.”