Tom Stephenson (l) has been training hard with the rest of the first team squad ©© Andy Taylor
Rugby News Stephenson can’t wait for Friday night lights
Centre Tom Stephenson tells Vicki-Jane Edwards why he is looking forward to getting back to Franklin’s Gardens this Friday evening.
After making his first team debut in the LV= Cup last November Stephenson is looking to showcase his abilities in the Northampton leg of the JP Morgan Premiership Sevens Series in a hope to get many more first team call-ups under his belt this season.
Stephenson returns back to the East Midlands on the back of a six months in which he was part of the U20s England squad who won the Six Nations earlier this year and the Junior World Championships this summer. And looking ahead to his first rugby after making a JWC debut against the USA in one of England's highest ever scoring matches, the 19-year-old gave an insight into his dramatic summer.
“It was a pretty intense three weeks,” he says, “but it definitely paid off. The last match and the semi-final were brilliant to be part of. The team throughout the Six Nations were building together and when we got to the World Cup we knew we were ready. But when we lost to South Africa in the pools, it was a painful experience, especially as we expected to beat them. But after losing that, everyone was so up for facing New Zealand in the semi-finals.”
Being a year younger than the majority of the other U20s players, Stephenson is looking to build upon this triumph next year when the JWC heads to New Zealand.
“This year was a learning experience, as well as being part of the team,” he added. “You don't really want to be there to learn; you want to be there to play, but next year we want to match what they did last year.”
Stephenson is one of three of last year’s Senior Academy to have secured first team contracts going into 2013/14, alongside prop Ethan Waller and flanker Teimana Harrison.
The centre is the youngest of the three, and admits that “it was a bit of a surprise when I got the professional contract.
“There are a lot of centres at this club, but I have been learning from them. I want to push on. Obviously I am still young, so I am still learning. But any opportunity I get from the first team I’m going to take it.”
That opportunity could start this Friday evening when the JP Morgan Premiership Sevens Series returns to Franklin’s Gardens for the first time in two years. A crowd in excess of 8,000 is expected for the evening, along with the first visit of BT Sport to the stadium to broadcast all the action live.
Stephenson played in the Sevens Series this time last year, but acknowledges that he’s got a lot to learn about the shortened version of the sport.
“I’m not a Sevens specialist,” he concedes, “but it is all about communication. I’m sure it will be a great, great night and the Franklin’s Gardens crowd are always fantastic so I'm sure they'll get behind the boys.
“I'm just really looking forward to getting back into rugby, starting to play the game and get fitness out of the way. I’m really looking forward to working with the crowd, both this Friday, and for the rest of the season as my career develops.”
Tickets for the JP Morgan Premiership 7s are still available – book online by CLICKING HERE or head to the Saints Ticket Office at Franklin’s Gardens before 7pm on Thursday or from 9am on Friday morning.
Season Ticket Holders can claim their 2-4-1 discount either by entering their customer number into the coupon code at the online system checkout, or by quoting their customer number at the Saints Ticket Office.