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Sleightholme enjoying steady run of matches for Saints

We sat down with Northampton Saints wing, Ollie Sleightholme, ahead of this weekend’s home Gallagher Premiership clash against Bristol Bears at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens…

Q: Looking back at last weekend, Saturday’s result at Bath was clearly not what the side were looking for?
OS: Definitely not. It was very frustrating. We’ve not been clicking, as such, for a few games now but we got away with it a few times and came out on top. Bath was one where we didn’t get away with it, and a few things that we would have liked to have gone better didn’t. We know those areas and they are definitely things we can work on.

Q: Saints turned the ball over a lot at the Rec, was that one of the areas you have identified this week?
OS: It’s frustrating for everyone because we’re trying to get our game on the pitch, and it’s hard to get your game on the pitch when you’re getting turned over. We had a lot of possession and a lot of territory, but we just couldn’t convert in those areas. It’s lapses in concentration that allowed them into the game, and they’re a difficult side to let into a game when they’re playing at home.

Q: You’ve been able to get out on the pitch more regularly this season, how do you feel your own form has been?
OS: I’ve been playing more and that reaps the improvement that you want. Obviously, the more you play the more your confidence goes up and you don’t ease into it but sort of become more comfortable with it and relax a bit more. That’s not relaxing in the sense of resting on your laurels, but being at a point where you’re not overthinking things, and you’re allowing yourself to do what you do well on the pitch.

Q: Was it hard to get yourself into a rhythm last season, due to its stop-start nature for you?
OS: There was definitely a bit of that, with injuries and so on, but I also just had a bit of a drop in form last year. It might be a case of me developing physically and mentally, stuff like that. It’s just about allowing myself to keep trying to improve everywhere. It’s definitely nice to be playing again now, and hopefully playing well.

Q: Is it enjoyable to be playing alongside so many other players who have come through Saints’ Academy in the backline?
OS: It is because we all know each other really well, which is good because it also means we’re not afraid to tell each other what the craic is! But we all get on really well and I enjoy playing alongside them.

Q: Your younger brother, Frankie, has now played his first few games at senior level. Has he broken through earlier than even you might have expected?
OS: A little bit! He loves playing and he just wants to get out there and enjoy playing with his mates. It’s just a case of when he gets the opportunities for him to have fun.

Q: Were you two quite competitive when you were younger?
OS: Definitely, we still are! Everything we could get a chance to compete at, we’d go for it. I think that’s the same for the squad, though, and why we end up being so competitive out on the pitch.

Q: How much is your dad, Jon (a Saints legend), enjoying seeing his two sons playing for the club?
OS: He’s loving it. It poses more problems for him about where he’s watching rugby and who he’s watching, but that’s not a bad problem to have. He doesn’t pass on advice much anymore. He’s aware the game has changed so much since he played that a lot of stuff he was told and taught is not necessarily the same anymore. When we were kids, he was very good with us, but he knows the coaches here are really good at what they do and there’s no need for him to be offering advice all the time. It’s more a case of him just being there to support us.

Q: Looking ahead to Bristol Bears, are they a bit like Saints this season in that it’s hard to know what to expect from them in games?
OS: I think so. They’re a bit similar to us in that they’ve had a sort of weird start to the season, winning a few games and losing a few games, but we know they’re a dangerous side and we know what they can do. It’s a case of doing what we know we can do to combat that and put that on the pitch.

Q: Has there been much talk from the coaches about the team being more consistent during matches?
OS: There has, and we’ve been talking about us doing what we do well and what we train well. We don’t focus too much on others or external factors, it’s more a case of knowing what we do well. One of the key take-outs from Bath was us not looking after the ball well enough. That has been worked on and will continue to be worked on.

Q: Are matches against Bristol, who play an open high-tempo style, the sort you prefer to be part of?
OS: They certainly make for interesting games to watch! It’s about us combatting that with our own strengths, and stuff like that. We’re looking forward to getting out there again.

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