Tom Stephenson is hoping the LV= Cup can once again catapult him into the spotlight at Saints.
Last season, the centre made his Northampton debut in the competition, going on to shine in a plethora of first-team games for his club.
He scored memorable tries in Aviva Premiership successes against Newcastle Falcons and Gloucester, signposting a bright future.
And after overcoming a few injury niggles, the 20-year-old is now ready to shine again, with Saints ready to give youth a chance in the absence of their international stars.
“The LV= Cup is a huge stepping stone for young players, it is a great opportunity for players who are looking to play for England one day and push into first-team squads,” said Stephenson, who has the tough job of trying to displace the England ace Luther Burrell and Samoa star George Pisi in Saints’ midfield.
“This season I just need to try and find some form and push my way back into a first-team position after couple of frustrating little niggles.
“The LV= Cup is massive for young players like myself.
“It’s a massive competition, the club want to win it, we want to win it and it’s the next best thing to playing in the Premiership. I think I improved massively playing in the LV= Cup as I think it gives you a little taste of what it could be like.
“And it gives you that experience that the coach needs to trust you and just getting game time under your belt in front of a crowd – it just helps you for the next step when you get the chance.”
Stephenson helped Saints reach the final of the LV= Cup last season, but they were beaten in the Sandy Park showpiece by a fired-up Exeter Chiefs side.
And the youngster is now desperate to ensure his side go one better this time round, with a Franklin’s Gardens final up for grabs.
“It’s a massive competition that the club want to win, we all want to win it,” said Stephenson.
“The standard is not much different to the Premiership, it’s quicker than any rugby you have played before, like the A-League and very physical as well.
“I was at Exeter last year; it wasn’t a great day for us.
“It’s a great incentive for us to get to the final and win it this time. It’s always great to play at Franklin’s Gardens in front of a packed crowd – it’s a great day out for everyone.
“Franklin’s Gardens when it is full, there are not many better places to play, especially on a day like the LV= Cup final, I’m sure it will be even more special than normal.”
Be part of the rugby family at the LV= Cup Final at Franklin’s Gardens, Northampton on Sunday 22 March. Visit www.northamptonsaints.co.uk for tickets.