Henry Slade has revealed how a darts night in London acted as a team-bonding catalyst for England’s outstanding victory over Ireland last Saturday.
The squad gathered for refreshments and arrows at theme bar Flight Club on the eve of their departure for a week-long training camp in Portugal where the groundwork for an epic win in Dublin was laid.
Courtney Lawes emerged as the star of the evening after Nathan Hughes revealed “he has that long reach and just places the dart on the board”, while replacement prop Harry Williams finished bottom.
Eddie Jones sanctioned an evening requested by senior players believing that the danger of misbehaviour was outweighed by the benefit of allowing his Six Nations title challengers to connect.
“They didn’t get into trouble which was fantastic and isn’t always the case when you’ve got 30 guys going out and having a drink,” Jones said.
“They wanted to go into the camp ready to go, have some stories to tell and have some togetherness. That’s where we’re going as a team.”
Slade, who served notice of his arrival as a Test player by scoring two tries at the Aviva Stadium, appreciates the value of gathering in a social environment.
“We had a room, played some darts, had a couple of drinks and had a real good time,” Slade said.
“We do a very similar thing at Exeter at the start of pre-season and it’s a great way to get to know each other.
“You feel closer to the bloke next to you because you’ve shared experiences off the field. It’s not purely business and work – you’re playing with your mates.
“It feels like your back at school playing with your mates, who you genuinely want to do well for.
“The coaches came to us and said ‘is there anything you think would be beneficial?’ so a couple of the senior boys got together.
“We had a room. There were loads of electronic dartboards, linked up to a scoreboard. You didn’t have to actually count yourself – some people would be buggered with that.
“I never really play at all but I had a hell of a checkout – three doubles. I shocked myself.
“The bulk of us have been here for a few years now. We’ve had a real emphasis on being together on and off the field, getting together in little groups off the field and having a good time.
“We didn’t tend to do that as much before. You share experiences off the field and that brings you together on the field.”
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