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Hopley highlights a big weekend for Saints youngsters

Travis PerkinsSponsored by Travis Perkins

It has certainly been a busy fortnight for Senior Academy coach Mark Hopley, who took the Under-18s on a two-game mini-tour of Wales last week, with another trip to Dublin next week which will include a clash with Leinster Schools at Donnybrook.

“We’ve had a pretty good pre-season schedule with our Under-18s, playing two games in Wales last week and then Leinster this Saturday,” Hopley told SaintsTV. “Over the years we’ve had some brilliant matches with them and for us as coaches we want to take players out of their comfort zone and test them against international opposition. Hopefully Leinster will give us a great game on Saturday.”

However the weekend’s action starts on Friday, and as in previous years it will be a young 12-man squad that will make the trip to Coventry to face Saracens, Harlequins and Wasps. The group includes a number of age group internationals, including skipper Sam Olver, Scotland Under-20 back Rory Hutchinson and England Under-18s Will Allman, Alex Moon and Alex Mitchell, who recently toured South Africa with the national side.

And while the shortened version of the sport has different athletic requirements from the 15-a-side game, Hopley says that there are some things which remain the same, not least how the players will react to a pressure situation in a big stadium and in front of the BT Sport cameras.

“Rugby Sevens really highlights your core skills,” he added. “If you don’t have the ball in Sevens then you’re in for a long evening, and that technical ability is going to be crucial.

“We’ve got a young and enthusiastic squad and are playing at a fantastic stadium. This tournament has shown over the past few years that it puts guys in pressure situations, and hopefully the guys will get something out of it. They love putting the Northampton Saints shirt on and playing for this club.

“We know that whoever pulls on the shirt will be giving it 100 percent.”

Tickets remain on sale for the Singha Premiership Rugby Sevens Series directly from the Ricoh Arena.

Meanwhile Saturday’s game against Leinster Schools kicks off at 12noon on Pitch 1 at Franklin’s Gardens. Entry is free for all supporters, with car parking accessible via Abbey Street. Coffees and teas will be available in the Village from 10:30am.