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Freddie Steward will be inspired by the memory of witnessing Elliot Daly’s famous try at the Principality Stadium as he targets the end of England’s Cardiff drought.
Wearing a red rose jersey and with his face painted in national colours, a 16-year-old Steward was present in 2017 to watch George Ford and Owen Farrell send Daly diving over for a dramatic late score that snatched a 21-16 victory.
It was England’s last win in the Welsh capital and since then Steward has taken ownership of the full-back jersey at Daly’s expense.
Now 22, he aims to ignite Steve Borthwick’s first Guinness Six Nations as head coach by spearheading a revival at the venue on Saturday.
“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.”
Steward made his Test debut in the midst of the pandemic, denying him the experience of operating in hostile away environments until he started at Murrayfield a year ago.
Farrell has been the Leicester Tiger’s main source information over what to expect in the round three clash as England brace themselves for the type of reception that is spared for them alone.
“Some of the players have mentioned going through Cardiff on the bus, which is apparently just a complete frenzy,” Steward 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.”
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