Six Nations: England’s Freddie Steward looks to embrace the hostile Principality atmosphere against Wales

 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

England full-back Freddie Steward looks forward to experiencing the atmosphere at the Principality Stadium against Wales on Saturday and hopes to use inspiration from Elliot Daly’s famous try in 2017.

Daly scored a 75th-minute try in 2017 to steal a 21-16 win over Wales in Cardiff, and Steward, who was only 16 at the time, was in the stands with his family cheering on.

Fast forward to 2023, and Steward is likely to start against Wales in a game that almost did not go ahead due to a contract standoff between Welsh players and the Welsh Rugby Union.

Fortunately, the match will go ahead as planned, but the issues in Wales seem a long way from sorted at this stage.

“Incredible” atmosphere

The Englishman recalls the 2017 game and the loud atmosphere in the stadium, something he looks forward to experiencing as a player this time around.

“I was there when Elliot Daly scored that try in the 75th minute,” Steward said.

“I was actually in the corner with my dad and brothers, so that was a little snapshot for me of what the Welsh atmosphere is like. It’s incredible.

“When the try was scored a lot of beer was thrown around and there was a lot of rowdiness. There was also a bit of dismay, as you can imagine.

“The pictures of me that day are shocking. No, I was a proud Englishman that day. I remember it very well, it was a brilliant day.

“Hopefully when we return on Saturday it will the same again. It was an awesome memory. Nicking it the way we did at the death was pretty cool.

“The one thing that stands out is the Welsh anthem. I think the roof was off that day but even so, there is something special about the anthem.

“Even if you’re not Welsh, it’s something to admire and something special when they all get singing. I look forward to that on Saturday.”

Looking to harness the hostility

The Leicester Tigers star began his Test career during the pandemic, robbing him of hostile atmospheres until facing Scotland at Murrayfield last year.

Steward has been warned about how intense the experience can be, starting with the bus trip in, and he wants to embrace the energy and channel it to bring the best out of himself.

“Some of the players have mentioned going through Cardiff on the bus, which is apparently just a complete frenzy,” he said.

“I’ll try and keep my headphones in and stare down the bus rather than get distracted by that. But it’s all part of it.

“Scotland last year was my first Six Nations away experience. The way the bus drives in really slow, Scottish fans either side of you swearing at you, beer being thrown at the bus.

“It was the first time I have experienced that hostility in rugby but, intimidating as it is, it can get the best out of you, it makes you want to win even more.

“It’s nice to have that atmosphere – sometimes it can be healthy. Intimidation, two sets of fans going at it – it can bring more out of the players.

“England v Wales is the fixture where form goes out of the window and you get the best of both teams. We’re excited for that challenge.”

READ MORE: Wales v England: Six Nations clash in Cardiff to go ahead following lengthy talks

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