There is a double day of Academy action on Sunday, with the club’s Under-14s playing some of England’s best schoolboys in the Independent School Barbarians at 11am, followed at 1pm by the Under-18s’ clash with the national team.
And Hopley says that the training week has given players and coaches alike a good opportunity to bond as a group.
“This week with the majority of the schools being on half term it’s a good opportunity to get those boys in and get some contact on with them so with our Under-18s we had them in all day Monday and Tuesday,” Hopley said.
“Obviously with the weather being particularly bad on Sunday, it affected what we needed to do but we still felt that it was a worthwhile exercise getting those lads in.
“The training pitches were out of bounds but we got through a lot of the other stuff, other than the rugby side of stuff that we usually do with them, so it gave us opportunities to sit down with the players and discuss their development plans and now they’re going to improve moving forward.
“On top of that, Chris Hart and Caroline White got a lot of contact time with those boys, assessing their physical competences and also getting a couple of good gym sessions in them.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to have seven boys selected for that England U18’s training camp and those guys will be released to play for us against England so for those they’ve got a foot in both camps.
“For us it’s brilliant to have an international fixture. We’ve played against England the last two years and fortunately we’ve been on the winning side of those results. Playing against England and also using it as a tool to try and push our players through and into that squad is massively important.”
Sunday’s games are being played on Pitch 1 and are free for all supporters. And you can listen to the interview with Mark Hopley in full in the official Saints podcast, available now for FREE at SoundCloud – just CLICK HERE to listen on any device!