Saints Q&A: Get to know Northampton youngster Will Hooley

CAN HE KICK IT? - Saints youngster Will Hooley (Picture: Linda Dawson)

CAN HE KICK IT? - Saints youngster Will Hooley (Picture: Linda Dawson)

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The Saints first team may have lost their first game of the season at London Irish on Saturday, but the club’s second string, the Wanderers, still proudly possess a 100 per cent record.

Their performances in the ‘A’ League have been powered by some experienced players such as Ryan Lamb and Noah Cato as well as an exciting clutch of youngsters.

So just who are the next generation of Saints players?

This week, in the first of our new question and answer sessions with the aspiring aces, we catch up with 18-year-old academy fly-half Will Hooley.

Hi Will. How have you been finding things this season in the academy and with the Wanderers?

“It’s great. It’s the winning formula here at the Saints and it’s run right the way from the first team to the second team.

“To be part of the second team in the Aviva ‘A’ League and not losing is fantastic. The youth and experience in that side is working really well. “There’s a great buzz at the club at the moment and hopefully we’ll continue to push that forward.”

How good has it been to play alongside some established players for the Wanderers? Have they given you a warm welcome?

“Everyone’s treated the same here. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got 20 caps for England or you’re a first-year academy player.

“As a first-year, it’s about trying to learn off those players in my position: Stephen Myler, Ryan Lamb. It’s great to be part of that, hopefully build and push forward and one day be competing for their spot.”

Myler and Lamb obviously have two contrasting styles of play so it must be good for you, from a development point of view, that you can learn from them?

“Lamby and Myler have got their own styles of play, both very good and both work well. For me it’s about picking and choosing.

“You look at Stephen Myler at the moment - his kicking game’s fantastic - and you look at Lamby and the way he’s running the ball.

“I try to pick and choose and bring that into my game so it’s great to learn from them.”

And Paul Grayson, who has been there and done it at the highest level, can’t be a bad man to have around, either?

“For me Grays is kicking coach and it’s been great to spend time with him. Just by being here at the club with him, day in, day out, you definitely learn and improve.”

Players will be away during the LV= Cup campaign this season so you must see that as a great chance to prove yourself in the first team?

“You look at other lads who were academy players, the likes of Mike Haywood, Ben Nutley, they’ve pushed on and got first-team appearances, so there’s definitely that goal for me to push on for that LV= Cup spot.

“It’s about the now and working with the Wanderers, working with the academy and doing my best there.

“I’m lucky enough to be part of the England Under 20s as well so I’ve just got to keep improving and if the chance comes I’ll jump on it and do my best.”

As a young player, how good is it to know that the coaches here have a record of giving youngsters a chance in the first team?

“They are wanting to push the youngsters on and I think that’s great, with a club that’s doing really well. They’re wanting to put those youngsters out there and show what they can do.

“I mentioned Mikey Haywood and Ben Nutley, but there’s Teimana Harrison and others as well and hopefully for us first years we can push on and be seen as good, skilful players and get that game time.”

With the ‘A’ League being condensed into the first half of the season, it gives you a chance to get on a roll and get that winning habit going...

“Definitely. Playing week in, week out rugby teaches you more than just training. Training is important, don’t get me wrong, but no one wants to be a professional trainer, you want to get out there and play.

“Having that Monday night each week is fantastic and it brings the team together. There’s definitely that team atmosphere, not just with that first 15 or 23-man squad. It goes right the way down through to the second team and the academy.

“Everyone’s pushing for places at the club and I think that’s why we’re doing so well. Boys are pushing each other and we’re looking for good performances.”

It’s not only playing with experienced guys but playing against them that must help as well?

“Yeah, it was quite ironic on Monday night as I was up against Cameron Shepherd. Once upon a time I was watching him on the TV and now I’m up against him.

“You try to put yourself under pressure to perform against those guys and it’s just a game of rugby at the end of the day. Whoever’s in front of you you’ve just got to play your game.

“I’ve been learning a lot and hope to keep improving.”

You mentioned the England Under 20s earlier, how have things been going for you since you joined up with them ahead of the new season?

“It’s been great. I was very pleased to be part of that squad and it’s great for the club that there’s four or five other lads who are part of that squad.

“It’s a building block for getting into the first team in the Premiership and England in the future.

“It’s a really good system, having the Six Nations in January and February and the Junior World Cup, but it’s early stages now, it’s an initial squad and it’s about doing well at the Saints and progressing from there.”

You were at the England Under 20 training camp recently. How enjoyable was that experience?

“I was part of the England Under 18s setup but it almost feels more professional with the 20s. There’s a great group of lads and we’re going to have a good season.

“There’s guys who have played Premiership rugby and there’s guys coming through eager to make the difference so I think we’re going to have a good team and I’m looking forward to it.”