The Northampton Saints forwards may have been hogging the headlines over the past few weeks, but what is really pleasing Dorian West is how the club’s English youngsters have been stepping up to the plate.
After Kieran Brookes took home the man of the match award in the win at Glasgow it was hooker Mikey Haywood who had the champagne to savour after the Aviva Premiership win over Gloucester.
In the past three weeks the 25-year-old Brookes and 24-year-old Haywood have formed a front row combination with loosehead Alex Waller, also still just 25 years of age.
Meanwhile coming off the bench have been Waller’s 23-year-old brother, Ethan, 24-year-old hooker Matti Williams - who like both Wallers and Haywood is a product of the Saints Senior Academy - and 20-year-old Paul Hill.
Backing them up against Gloucester were six other Englishmen, with newcomer Victor Matfield the only player not qualified to wear the red rose. And not forgetting the likes of Alex Corbisiero and Dylan Hartley to return from injury and up-and-comers Gareth Denman and Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi in the wings.
“Victor [Matfield] was our only non-English forward [against Gloucester],” the forwards coach told SaintsTV. “We’ve got a good group of lads who are learning together and working hard, and hopefully we’ll keep on getting better.
“We’ve got two English tightheads who are pushing each other and setting the standard. Kieran Brookes was outstanding tonight as well. There’s a lot written about the scrum, and he’s a big part of that. We’re also really excited about Paul Hill. He came here with a lot to learn, but he’s learning quickly. But Paul came on in the last 20 minutes and you didn’t notice any difference; he got onto the front foot immediately.”
West may be excited by the English pool of talent at Franklin’s Gardens, but he is also looking forward to working with the 127-test veteran during the rest of the season.
“Victor’s got a lot of experience and we’ve got to look to use that experience to learn a few new things,” he added. “We’ve not had much time with him with a short week after the Glasgow game, but we’ll be sitting down with him and see what we can add to our game. He’s a quality player and everybody will learn from playing with him.”
The Saints are back in action at Franklin’s Gardens against Racing-92 - who unveiled World Rugby’s Player of the Year Dan Carter this week - in the European Rugby Champions Cup on Friday, December 18th. Tickets are on sale now at www.northamptonsaints.co.uk/buytickets - use [email protected] to beat the match day queues and save the admin fees!