Oakley vows to fill the void left by England stars

FILLING THE VOID - Rhys Oakley
FILLING THE VOID - Rhys Oakley

Rhys Oakley insists he can patch up any creaking areas in the Northampton Saints pack with the former Aviva Premiership leaders losing players to injuries and internationals.

Saints have had a disappointing run of form following their blistering start to the season, their 16-6 defeat to Saracens their second league defeat in a row following five successive wins which has seen then drop from first to fourth in the table.

And with the autumn internationals on the horizon, Saints may be forced to stage a revival without a number of their first-choice pack; captain Dylan Hartley, lock Courtney Lawes and back-row forward Tom Wood.

But Oakley, who has started twice this season, backed the depth of the Saints squad to show its worth and claims his versatility could prove vital in the upcoming games.

“We have a lot of very capable players who have started games and played big games who know they have a job to do now,” he said.

“We relish it, certainly, we’re all here playing rugby together and getting time on the field is important for us – the key is that whoever is asked to come in makes the most of it.

“I have had a little run in the team and then had a bit of an injury which saw me miss out but other lads have come in and done well which leaves us very confident as a squad.

“But that pushes me to do better and work harder and I will give my all to regain my place and take on some added responsibility.

“I can play all across the back row and I have experience of moving up to the second row – so I am pretty versatile and it wouldn’t be a problem for me to do that – I would give my all to whatever was asked of me.”

A short trip to Leicester Tigers is next up for Saints on Saturday live in front of the cameras on ESPN and they have been boosted by the release of Phil Dowson although Hartley and Lawes are out through injury.

And Dowson’s return to the club could be a timely one with 32-year-old Oakley pointing to the forward battle as defining who will come out on top in the vital local derby between fourth and fifth.

“We were obviously disappointed with how the Sarries game went and we are looking to come back with a bang now and the lads are well up for it,” he added.

“We’re expecting a tough physical tie as always with Leicester – they are quite similar to us and it will demand a lot of work from the forwards.

“But we relish that and we believe we have the best pack in the league so we’ll be fighting for every inch.”

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