Premiership Rugby

What Feyi-Waboso Switching From Wales To England Says About Each Nation

What Feyi-Waboso Switching From Wales To England Says About Each Nation

Immanuel Feyi-Waboso has reportedly switched his international rugby allegiance from Wales to England. What does it mean for the 2024 Guinness Six Nations?

Jan 10, 2024
What Feyi-Waboso Switching From Wales To England Says About Each Nation

When news broke that Immanuel Feyi-Waboso was linking up with the England senior squad as part of its Six Nations alignment camp, Welsh rugby fans drew in a collective remonstrative gasp.

Gone was a player who could have been a future star in Warren Gatland’s back three.

It shouldn’t have ended like this. After all, Feyi-Waboso was born and raised in the Welsh capital and came up through the Cardiff Blues ranks.

However, he left the province at age 18 after failing to get into medical school at Cardiff University, and instead enrolled with Aston University and transferred to the Wasps.

When the Coventry-based club subsequently disintegrated, he was forced into another move, this time finding a home with the Exeter Chiefs.

Since arriving in Devon, the 21-year-old has thrived, putting in showstopping performances in the Premiership, which have caught the eye of both England and Wales.

It would have made a lot of sense for Feyi-Waboso to link up with Wales, given he’s previously worn the red jersey at age-grade level and spent most of his life in the country.

However, there are eligibility restrictions in place, which means someone playing their rugby abroad can only feature for Wales if they have at least 25 international caps, so that puts a spanner in the works.

Feyi-Waboso doesn’t want to move, not just because he’s enjoying his time with the Chiefs, but also because he wants to continue studying medicine at Exeter University.

It's a huge blow to Gatland, who now will watch as England and Steve Borthwick make use of a player who has all the hallmarks of a generational talent.   

Not only is the Chiefs youngster good in the air, he’s fast and extremely quick on his feet. 

Against the Bristol Bears, Feyi-Waboso wrought havoc, making line breaks out of absolutely nothing. That twitch gene he possesses is similar to the one Louis Rees-Zammit has, and one can only imagine the carnage the two would produce if they lined up on both wings for Wales.

On top of that, Feyi-Waboso’s finishing already is accomplished, though it’s his physicality that makes him stand out. Very few players are that nimble, yet still so dominant, in the tackle area. And not just in attack, but defense as well, where he seamlessly lines up flankers and slices them in half like Brian Lima did in his pomp.

So many wingers in today’s game are accelerated through the pathways if they have one exceptional characteristic. Henry Arundell springs to mind for his roadrunner-like acceleration, yet he still has weaknesses in other parts of his game, namely his tackling and consistency in the air.

While Feyi-Waboso has not been put under the same scrutiny as Arundell, it appears he has much fewer gaping holes in his game, and that’s precisely why so many people are excited about him.

The notion that Wales can miss out on such a talent is criminal and says a lot about the current pathway structure overseen by the WRU.

With the Welsh regions struggling on and off the field, more players are moving abroad.

Feyi-Waboso’s Chiefs teammate Joe Hawkins is a prime example of this. The young center left Ospreys in the summer to escape financial uncertainty and now is ineligible for Wales.

In the last week, rumors have begun circulating that Rees-Zammit is lining up a move to either France or Japan. Fortunately, the Gloucester winger already has 25 caps, so he will be free to play internationally, but his desire to look elsewhere and not even consider a return to Wales should be concerning.

However, the other major crisis looming is the potential departure of Mason Grady from Cardiff. The highly thought of center has been strongly linked with Bath, alongside a few other English clubs, which would rule him out of Wales selection moving forward.

The potential loss of both Feyi-Waboso and Grady is a monumental sting to Gatland, who remains unsure of his center partnership and has gaping holes to fill in his back three following Leigh Halfpenny’s retirement and Liam Williams’ move to Japan.

It’s easy to criticize the players for this exodus and remonstrate their lack of loyalty, but can you blame them for seeking financial security elsewhere, while the Welsh provinces continue to lose money?

Something needs to give, and maybe the pain of watching Feyi-Waboso don the red rose will be enough to kickstart change and finally bring an end to international cap restrictions.

For England, the arrival of a new, fresh-faced winger is a delight, but it had more to do with the pitfalls of the Welsh model than the pulls of the English one. However, Borthwick won’t mind, knowing full well he’s won the battle.

It will be interesting to see how Feyi-Waboso’s arrival impacts England’s style of play. For a while, the nation has been crying out for a lethal winger who can turn a game on its head.

At times during the World Cup, it looked as though England was playing with the stabilizers on. Maybe, with the arrival of Feyi-Waboso, Borthwick can start devising a more expansive style that completements the young Chiefs talent.