England centre Slade signs new Exeter deal to end talk of France move

England centre Henry Slade (right) is staying at Exeter (Glyn KIRK)
England centre Henry Slade (right) is staying at Exeter (Glyn KIRK)

Henry Slade has given English rugby a boost by signing a new contract that will keep the Test centre with Premiership side Exeter.

There had speculation that the 31-year-old would be tempted away by a lucrative offer from a French club, following in the footsteps of England internationals Henry Arundell, Jack Willis and Joe Marchant.

Former England captain Owen Farrell, Bristol prop Kyle Sinckler and Northampton skipper Lewis Ludlam will all leave the Premiership at the end of the current campaign after agreeing deals to play in France's Top 14 next season.

The trio are effectively ending their England careers, given the Rugby Football Union regulation barring head coach Steve Borthwick from selecting players at overseas clubs for international duty.

But Slade, capped 62 times by England and a veteran of 230 appearances for Exeter, has opted to stay put.

He has been a key figure in Exeter's push for a play-off place -- a bonus-point win over Leicester on Saturday could secure a top-four finish -- and is also the Premiership's leading scorer this season.

"There were a lot of factors behind my decision to stay at Exeter Chiefs," Slade said in a club statement on Thursday.

"I joined the academy at 18, so the club is all I have ever really known as a professional rugby player. I feel very lucky to be able to say I have represented the club over 200 times.

"I call Exeter my home. I've started a young family here -- my eldest daughter starts school in September -- so it just felt right to stay."

Slade was a shock omission from England's squad for last year's World Cup in France but fought back to regain a midfield role during this season's Six Nations.

"We obviously feel that we have got a team that is really going to grow over the coming seasons, but the truth is Henry is probably the keystone to the process," said Exeter boss Rob Baxter.

"He has been a great leader for us and guided a strong, youthful team to do well in both Europe and the Premiership."