Pre-season is traditionally a time for young players to make their mark – and that was certainly the case for Sam Olver.
The academy fly-half grabbed his first-team opportunity with both hands, showing no signs of nerves during games against Moseley, Edinburgh and Leinster.
Olver kicked points in all three matches, with his calmness from the tee a highlight of the friendly endeavours.
We caught up with the 18-year-old, son of former Saints and England hooker John Olver, to discuss his development and talk about what promises to be a big season ahead.
So, Sam, just give us your reflections on pre-season. It appears to have been a bit of a breakthrough for you...
“Yeah, it’s been really good. I got a few first-team games in there, which were really good experiences.
“It’s been hard work but I’ve learned a lot from it.”
And you managed to kick a few points, which must have been nice?
“I’ve been doing quite a bit since I’ve been here. Most days I work on my kicking and it’s gone alright so far.”
What was it like to kick those points against Edinburgh at Franklin’s Gardens? Was it nerve-racking?
“Definitely. But you just try to focus on the routine and what you do on the training field. I tried to handle the pressure as much as I could.
“It’s difficult sometimes when you’ve got the big kicks but you just try to do what you can.”
Do you get some advice from the senior guys on that sort of thing?
“Definitely. With Stephen (Myler) and Glenn (Dickson) around, they help a lot. They give me good advice and it’s good.”
What’s it like when you look around and see the likes of George North standing beside you?
“It’s a funny experience. I’ve grown up watching players like that and I’ve seen George playing for the Lions recently.
“It’s great for me to learn from them and it’s a massive opportunity for me to take as much as I can from it.”
What do you make of the season ahead?
“I feel in decent form at the moment but I’ve just got to keep working as hard as I can and maybe get some LV= Cup action at the end of it.”
Have the coaches said much to you about your role?
“Not yet. It’s just game by game at the moment. We’ve got Leicester on Monday in the A League, which is a good opportunity to show what I can do.”
All of the teams at Saints seem to be shaping up well. It must be nice to be part of that?
“It’s a really good place. We’ve got really good players and this season we’ll be pushing hard for that top spot in the Premiership final and in Europe.”
And it’s not just the club action you’re involved in. You’ve played for England Under 18s this summer...
“Yeah, we got to go to South Africa on tour. Unfortunately we lost to the South Africans in a hard game, they’re physical lads.
“We beat the French and the Welsh out there, which was a good way to finish.”
That must have been a big learning curve for you?
“It helped me a lot. You’ve got to focus on recovering quickly because we had a four-day turnaround.
“You learn a lot about the culture of South Africa and the way they play. You’ve got to toughen up against the likes of the South Africans because they’re a hard team to play.”
How much does it help you, coming up against sides like that?
“It is all about learning as much as you can along the way and broadening your spectrum about how the game is.
“From a personal point of view I’ve got to put on about two stone to match the demands of mens rugby at the moment, so you do learn a lot from it.”
And it wasn’t just you out there from Saints, was it?
“It was really good having Howard (Packman), Skelce (Josh Skelcey) and Josh Peters out there. It was nice to have them as company.
“They room you with your team-mates so I was with Josh Peters and it was good to spend a couple of weeks with him. It’s not a bad life.”