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Freeman eager to welcome new supporters into rugby

The week beginning October 9 is a big one for rugby in this country – and not just because it ends with the 2023/24 Gallagher Premiership season kicking off and England participating in a Rugby World Cup quarter-final.

That is because on Thursday 12 October, Amazon Prime is airing ‘Mud, Sweat and Tears: Premiership Rugby’. The two-part documentary features Northampton Saints players Lewis Ludlam and Fin Smith, as well as Owen Farrell, Maro Itoje, Ben Earl, George Ford, Chris Ashton and Gus Warr amongst others.

It examines what makes a Premiership Rugby winner and showcases the incredible super-human talent on the field as well as the jeopardy and drama of elite-level sport.

Towards the back end of last season, Northampton Saints opened its doors to the multi-award winning entertainment company Fulwell 73, who made the acclaimed sporting documentaries ‘All or Nothing: Juventus’, ‘Sunderland ‘Til I Die’ and ‘The Class of ’92; One Team, One Dream’.

There are big hopes that it can help expose rugby union to a larger, younger audience and grow the sport, which is music to the ears of the next generation of talented players breaking through.

Players like Tommy Freeman. He made his Premiership debut aged just 19, has raced to an incredible 34 tries in 57 appearances for the men in Black, Green and Gold, and has been capped three times by his country.

“The Amazon documentary really does excite me,” said the 22-year-old. “To give people that insight into our sport and how it operates is really important.

“The more we can do things like that, the more we can attract people in, the better. Especially younger people because they’re going to get excited about how we train and what it’s like to be a professional rugby player.”

Tommy Freeman

“At Saints, our Season Ticket Holders – who support us fantastically – are maybe of a slightly older age profile. Hopefully things like this will help us bring in more of the younger generation, as well as encouraging people to play rugby.”

Freeman did plenty to entertain the masses at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens last weekend. Having scored a try in each half against Bath in the Premiership Rugby Cup encounter, Freeman scooped up a loose ball with ten minutes to play inside his own half before showing incredible speed and skill to kick twice and touching down for his hat-trick sealing third score. Fin Smith’s conversion completed a remarkable 43-42 victory.

His second career treble for Saints moved the Oxford-born star to five tries in two games following his double in the previous round’s defeat to Bristol Bears at Ashton Gate.

“It’s always nice to get over the whitewash,” he said. “Obviously, the boys put me in the place to get those tries, so I am thankful for that. It’s always good to get over that white line and get the win in the end.

“The way we play, if everyone is on their game, and in our shape, then the tries will come. Luckily, being a back-three player, I am in more of a position to score than anybody else.”

Tommy Freeman

“But setting up a try or being a part of a phase to create a try is equally as good as scoring one.”

Another of Saints’ tries against Bath came from new-signing Tom Seabrook, who arrived from Premiership rivals Gloucester during the summer.

It extended the 24-year-old’s hot scoring streak since become a Saint, having also crossed the line against Cambridge and Bristol Bears.

He adds to an already bustling contingent of wingers and fullbacks at director of rugby Phil Dowson’s disposal heading into the 2023/24 campaign.

“There’s a lot of back three players who are going after it a bit,” explained Freeman. “Seabs is a good lad, he’s a tough bloke! I remember playing against him a few times when he played for Gloucester.

“He’s a tough guy and I think that will be good for us here at Saints. He will definitely bring the toughness out of us lads and give us a bit of a man test. He’s class to have around and he’s good at getting on the end for tries as well.

“You see it in training and in games, it’s what we’re being tested on at the moment, that physicality. It’s something he definitely brings.”

While Saints’ attack was sublime against Bath producing seven tries, it was countered by a defensive display that saw six conceded at the other end as the visitors bagged a bonus point within 24 minutes of kick-off.

It’s something that Freeman and his teammates are working hard to remedy on the eve of a new Premiership season that starts with a trip to Sale Sharks in a week’s time (15 October).

“The start we made definitely wasn’t good enough,” he said. “We didn’t put our game on the pitch, we didn’t start fast. It wasn’t us at all. We’ve really got to drain that habit out of us and going forward, we’ve got to start fast and put games to bed a bit earlier.

“Then our nice flair game will come into it. We don’t want to be 30 points down or whatever we were and then scraping those wins. We want to be starting fast and making sure we're going from the offset.

“There were probably signs of that last season, where we didn’t start fast and especially away from home we struggled to get going. We’ve definitely addressed it this week and hopefully we want to see improvements going forward into Sale, obviously a big game away from home – that’ll be a man test.

“We want to see a fight there. We will address it, move on and get it done, and make sure those habits don’t stay with us.”

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