Fish ready to step up again with Saints' senior players missing

James Fish is ready to step up again at Saints (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
James Fish is ready to step up again at Saints (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

With Saints missing the two men sitting at the top of the pecking order for the No.2 shirt, one of the stars of pre-season will again get the chance to show his worth.

James Fish weighed in with a whopping six tries in three friendly matches, against Ospreys, the Dragons and Glasgow Warriors.

And though most of them came from good teamwork rather than individual excellence, the scores helped to catapult the 22-year-old into the Saints spotlight.

With Mike Haywood, Dylan Hartley and Reece Marshall still making their way back from injury, Fish was handed a start on the opening day of the Gallagher Premiership season, at Gloucester.

And he kept his shirt for the next match, at home to Harlequins, before injury struck and Hartley and Co returned.

Nevertheless, Fish had built up plenty of credit in the bank when it came to how he was viewed by the coaches.

And now, with Haywood set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines and Hartley away on England duty, fully-fit Fish gets another chance to shine, battling it out with Marshall for the starting spot at hooker.

"This year's been great for me personally because I put my hand up in pre-season and managed to wear the No.2 shirt in that first game at Gloucester," Fish said.

"Unfortunately it didn't last long because I got injured but I've had a few Premiership Rugby Cup matches in the past few weeks and I've hopefully put my hand up again.

"It helped that I was the only one fit in pre-season and thankfully Boydy (Saints boss Chris Boyd) has put some trust in me.

"When you get given your opportunity you have to make sure you're ready to take it.

"All you can do is play well and make it as hard for the coaches to choose the side as possible."

Fish has come through the Saints Academy, racking up 12 appearances to date.

But he had not started a first-team game prior to the beginning of this campaign.

He has spent his time learning from the likes of Hartley and Haywood, and now he is ready to put those lessons into practice.

"Dylan and Mikey are always helping me and Reece because we're the younger lads in the squad," Fish said.

"Every bit of advice we can get from them is brilliant.

"I look at every game I play and work on it the following week.

"The main thing for me is my throwing, scrummaging and set piece, then skill work around the park."

Derby-born Fish used to watch forwards coach Phil Dowson strut his stuff for Saints - and now he gets to learn from him.

"It's brilliant to work with him," Fish said.

"He was still a player in my first year here so I'd met him before and he's a great coach.

"It's weird thinking you used to watch these guys play when you're younger and dreaming that one day you will get to do it yourself.

"To actually think the dream has come true is special."