Having hit the headlines for an astonishing European debut performance on Sunday afternoon, 19 year-old prop Manny Iyogun says he’s not getting carried away with a fast start to life in senior rugby.
The England Under-20 loosehead was thrust into the limelight after a string of injuries to Saints’ senior props and having made his Club debut at Leicester a week earlier, produced a display well beyond his tender years as he fronted up to a star-studded Exeter front row.
“It’s pretty surreal to be honest but I’m enjoying every moment of it,” Iyogun told BBC Northampton’s ‘Saints Show’.
“It’s obviously a tough challenge, especially with me being as young as I am, but I think with the motivation going into that game – we had a lot of fire in our bellies – that’s probably where all the energy came from.
“Playing in a quarter-final is quite a unique experience, especially for someone my age, so I just took it as it came."
What made the youngster’s performance all the more incredible was the fact that until he joined the full-time ranks, Iyogun was a hard-hitting number 8 who styled his game on former Saints star Louis Picamoles.
He admits it has been a challenging transition from back to front row, but one that he has embraced with a little help from international and Saints legends.
“Growing up I was one of those players who never cleared a ruck, just stood off and waited for the big carry. It’s a complete change of position to the front row, where one of the main jobs I clearing rucks and carrying a bit less, but I’m enjoying it.
“It sounds cliched, but I don’t think I’d be able to do it without the experience I’ve had around me. Particularly the likes of Ben Franks and Sue (Alex Waller), who took me under his wing quite a lot. The way he prepares his game and how professional he is, if there’s a player I look up to it would be Alex Waller.”
“The lads congratulated me on my performance, but were very much getting into me and saying to stay grounded and stay humble. I’m not going to get carried away."Manny Iyogun
One of the biggest transformations in his positional switch was the change in body shape and size.
In fact, during his first preseason, a then 18 year-old Iyogun stacked on 11kg of muscle in just six weeks, packing down protein shakes, pasta, and chicken at all hours of the day.
“I’ve pretty much had to strip down and change my whole body,” he added. “I’ve put on a lot of muscle mass and I think one of the biggest struggles physically was the eating. A lot of people probably think moving to prop and eating as much as you can is the dream scenario, but it’s not when you’re having to wake up and eat in the night when you’re not hungry!”
You could argue the switch has already been a roaring success, but true to his humble nature Iyogun – and his Saints teammates – won’t be letting a weekend of universal praise go to his head.
“The lads congratulated me on my performance, but were very much getting into me and saying to stay grounded and stay humble. I’m not going to get carried away after my second performance.
“My motivations are probably the same as everyone else; just wanting to do my family proud and chasing a bit of a dream. I’ve always wanted to play for Saints ever since my first game in the Academy and being at this stage now and looking back is pretty surreal.”