Lock Alex Coles is determined to make the most of his time in Northampton Saints’ starting line-up when the side travel to face Harlequins this Sunday.
The men in Black, Green and Gold travel to Twickenham Stoop hoping to continue their excellent run of away form in the Gallagher Premiership which has seen them win three consecutive matches on the road.
However, third-placed Quins are also unbeaten on home soil since the turn of the year, and will prove stiff opposition for Chris Boyd’s men who were beaten by the south-west Londoners at Franklin’s Gardens back in November.
With that early-season defeat still fresh in the memory, Coles knows Saints’ recent improvements will count for nothing if they are not firing on all cylinders against the in-form Harlequins.
“They seem to have some fresh energy and a buzz about them,” said the 21-year-old second row. “They’re an exciting team and I’m sure the neutrals like watching them play.
“We’re expecting them to try the same thing they tried to do to us at home and they obviously managed that quite well last time out. Marcus Smith ran the show, [Alex] Dombrandt is a dangerous carrier, [Danny] Care’s an experienced scrum-half and we didn’t really negate those threats at all last time.
“That was, honestly, probably one of our worst performances this season and I remember coming away from that game feeling very deflated, so we’ve worked hard to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
A part of Saints’ set-up since he was 13, Coles has made 29 senior appearances for Northampton since his Club debut back in 2018.
The men in Black, Green and Gold will be without the experience of Courtney Lawes and David Ribbans in the second row in the weeks ahead, with both unavailable due to injury and international duty respectively.
So Coles knows now is the time to grab the bull by the horns and make his mark in the lock department as he is given an opportunity to shine this weekend.
He said: “It’s obviously a massive shame for Courts to pick up an injury, but on the flip-side of it, for Dave to get the call up, he definitely deserves it – he’s been exceptional all season for us.
“If I get the chance, which I hope I do keep getting, I just want to do the best I can to try to fill those guys’ boots.”Alex Coles
“We have a great bunch of second rows here, and it can be frustrating at times sitting behind other guys, but you just look at their quality and you know they’re playing rightfully at the time.
“But you also want to stamp your authority down, so I’ve just got to take the chance to do the best I can in the coming weeks.”
Coles is named in Northampton’s starting line-up for the first time this season for the trip to London on Sunday.
And although he has been restricted to six appearances off the bench so far during the 2020/21 campaign, the young second row has been trying to absorb as much as he can from his more experienced peers in the engine room, which he hopes will pay dividends on the pitch.
“Courtney has a huge wealth of experience,” added Coles. “He’s usually a man of few words, but when he does give those titbits of information to me, I just have to take it on board.
“Not to get too technical but the way he’s been carrying recently, he’s got great footwork into the carry and that’s something I’ve been trying to take from him.
“And then with Dave, he’s a bit younger but I’ve just been trying to look at the way he’s developed over the last few years since I’ve been here, and try to emulate that with myself.
“It’s a great group of second rows to work with.”