Freddie Steward says the Leicester Tigers players involved in the Premiership Rugby Sevens this weekend “cannot wait to get out and play”.
Norfolk-born full-back Steward made his senior debut in a Cup game at Northampton last season after playing a prominent role in successive Under-18 League title wins and he returns to Franklin’s Gardens for the season’s curtain-raiser on Friday evening.
“It’s been a long pre-season, we’ve been in 12 or 13 weeks already, so it is nice to get to play some rugby,” Steward said.
“It’ll be good to play against opposition rather than your team-mates like we’ve done in training and we can’t wait to get started.”
The Premiership Sevens offers a development opportunity for young players going into the new season and Steward thinks there will be some familiar faces around the other 11 line-ups.
“There will be a lot of boys involved at other clubs who we know from the Academy League and also from England age-groups so it’ll be good to catch up with them too and play against them for the first time in senior rugby,” he said.
“It’s exciting to have some space on a full-size pitch in Sevens too! Hopefully the fitness we’ve been working on in the summer will show at the weekend.”
Steward, who doesn’t reach his 19th birthday until December, enjoyed a memorable season in 2018/19 with his Academy League title win, England Under-18s call-up, his Tigers debut at Saints and then a Gallagher Premiership outing at Sale in March when he was called into the 23-man squad just 15 minutes before kick-off when George Worth pulled up in the warm-up.
After the summer break he returned as part of the group elevated to the development squad, training alongside seasoned professionals in the Tigers set-up.
“The step up is tough to start with, especially in the first few weeks,” he said. “It’s another level of intensity and fitness, but all the older lads have been so good in making us feel welcome and it didn’t take long to settle into it.
“The squad has been really tight and everyone has kept that intensity high.”