Mallinder puts faith in youth as Saints seek more success

KICKING ON - Will Hooley is one of a number of youngsters making a big impression at Saints (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

KICKING ON - Will Hooley is one of a number of youngsters making a big impression at Saints (Picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

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Jim Mallinder admits Saints do not have the biggest of squads, but believes his young players can again catapult the club to success this season.

Mallinder steered Northampton to the double at the end of the previous campaign with a first Aviva Premiership triumph garnished with Amlin Challenge Cup glory.

They have stuck with largely the same group of players for the forthcoming season, with a number of last year’s squad being handed new contracts to keep them at Franklin’s Gardens.

That ensured there was little room for manouvre in the salary cap, meaning Saints will again look to the Academy and its recent graduates to furnish the first-team group.

And Mallinder has full faith in the likes of Tom Stephenson, Ethan Waller and Tom Collins who made a huge impression last time round.

“It’s essential that you keep strengthening,” said the Saints boss, who has added just two new players, Joel Hodgson and Jon Fisher, to his squad this summer.

“People have looked at our squad and we’ve not got the biggest in the land, but we’ve got some real quality players and we trust our younger players coming through.

“We want them to be part of the success and we’re fortunate we can then go out and attract good players to come in if we do pick up an injury or two.”

Mallinder clearly prefers quality over quantity, and added: “We spend some good money. We spend right up to the salary cap. We push it as much as we can but we can’t go over that.

“We want to retain all our best players and we’re fortunate that we’ve managed to do that for this season.

“We didn’t have many changes but we’ve got some fantastic young talent coming through and we want to develop them and get a stronger squad.”

One department in which Saints will be looking for their youngsters to shine is at fly-half, where senior star Stephen Myler is backed up by 20-year-old Will Hooley and 19-year-old Sam Olver.

Both Hooley and Olver played their part during pre-season, with Myler, who will start the Premiership opener against Gloucester, missing the friendly encounters due to a calf injury.

And Mallinder said: “One of the great things about Stephen Myler not being right for the pre-season games is that why risk him when we’ve got Will Hooley?

“We’re pleased with him, young Sam Olver has done well in pre-season and they’ve got some good game time. I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of them this season.”