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Six Nations Championship 2024: England's Tommy Freeman is determined to seize his chance

Six Nations Championship 2024: England's Tommy Freeman is determined to seize his chance

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Tommy Freeman impressed in England's opening win over Italy with the help of Elliot Daly's try

Guinness Six Nations: England v Wales

place: Twickenham Stadium date: Saturday 10 February Starting: 16:45 GMT

coverage: Listen to BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales and Radio Cymru; Live text on the BBC Sport website and app, watch on ITV1 and S4C

“It was pretty depressing, I'm not going to lie.”

Tommy Freeman has suffered several setbacks in his career.

The Northampton winger reignited his international ambitions with his fourth England cap in last weekend's Six Nations win over Italy and starts against Wales on Saturday, but it has not always been easy for the 22-year-old.

His previous Test appearance ended at half-time when he was substituted against South Africa in November 2022 by then-head coach Eddie Jones.

That defeat at the hands of the world champions at Twickenham marked the end of Jones' reign, but it was also a stark reminder of the hurdles Freeman still has to overcome.

“When I was growing up, I was always seen as second best,” Freeman told the BBC.

“I was at fly half that day and there was always another lad who preferred me or the coach's son.

“I was at Leicester Tigers [academy] But I was released as a young man and that was a bit of a setback.

“Getting out in the first half [against South Africa] It was another one. I didn't get a lot of feedback after that match.”

Freeman says he found it difficult to adapt to the speed and “stop-and-start” intensity of Test rugby than the club game, which “suits” his style better with the ball in play more.

He added: “Getting out of that match without doing anything, or having that moment to move correctly while I'm in the match” was the hardest part.

“But having the club and support staff at Saints really helped me get back on the horse and want to prove people wrong.”

“I got kicked in the face for that.”

Steve Borthwick did not immediately offer Freeman a reprieve when he replaced Jones as England coach and the winger has been overlooked in the last Six Nations.

He returned to the squad for England's training camp ahead of the World Cup but failed to earn a place in the final squad.

“When I came to those camps before the World Cup, I was probably in a state of despair,” Freeman said. “I didn't stick my chest out and was probably guilty of not making the most of it.

“I wanted to look really relaxed – but maybe I was too relaxed.

“I got kicked in the face for that.”

It's not just on the field where Freeman has struggled. His dream of becoming a professional seemed in doubt when he was diagnosed with epilepsy as a teenager.

“When I was younger, I had these vacant episodes where I would go through staring phases and then they just emptied,” he added.

“I thought I was just dreaming, and when I used the tablets at the end of my high school exams – just to stay focused on them – and I was done, [doctors] It was like I was probably out of it.

“Three years later, I was at college and in my first year with the Saints, I had this full fit at Christmas.

“It was very difficult as mum and dad thought this was the end of my rugby career and I don’t know.

“Immediately I got on the phone and all the doctors were sending me left, right and centre.

“It was a very difficult moment but it quickly got under control for rugby – I now have tablets for life – it's all good.

“I couldn't drive for two years, and that was the hardest part. Relying on people to drive you to your food store. That was brutal.”

video caption,

'Amazing' – Warburton shocks Mooney with England v Wales prediction

“I've matured”

Freeman made his England debut in the win over Australia in Brisbane in July 2022 before retaining his place in the starting XI the following weekend as the tourists wrapped up their series win.

Things quickly went wrong, but having starred for Saints during their 15-month exit from Test level, and with Jonny May retiring, Anthony Watson returning from injury and Jack Nowell and Henry Arundel ineligible for selection, the winger now feels ready to seize the opportunity. His chance. .

He said: “In Australia, it was a new experience and it was my first match with the national team. I took advantage of every minute and every opportunity I had, and I let everything take root in my mind.”

“I felt so small and I felt like I was accepting everything instead of making a statement and getting my foot in the door.

“Now I feel very clear and, from a team point of view, I know where we want to go.

“I've matured physically, in terms of understanding my body. A lot of that is mental as well, and now it's about being myself and expressing myself the best I can.”

video caption,

Six Nations 2024: A weekend in the life of BBC Sport pundit and former Wales captain Warburton

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