From television to centre stage - Grayson can't wait for Saints' game at Tigers

James Grayson can't wait to walk out at Welford Road this weekend
James Grayson can't wait to walk out at Welford Road this weekend

James Grayson has grown up watching Saints scrap it out with Leicester Tigers and Welford Road.

And this weekend he finally gets to grace the turf of his club's local rivals as he looks to steer the black, green and gold to a morale-boosting victory.

Saints have lost all three of their matches so far, meaning they will not be able to successfully defend their Premiership Rugby Cup crown.

But now sights are sharpening on the final pool game, at Tigers, and, ultimately, the Gallagher Premiership opener at Saracens a week later.

And Grayson, a product of the Saints Academy, can't wait to be part of the action this Saturday as he tries to help his club continue their good recent record at Leicester.

"It's very exciting, Leicester away at Welford Road," Grayson said.

"I've actually never been lucky enough to play there, but I've been there as a travelling reserve and witnessed a couple of good wins.

"Fingers crossed we can get a bit of momentum, put in a decent performance and the result will take care of itself."

Saints have won on their past two visits to Tigers, with their most recent victory a convincing 29-15 success back in March.

But prior to April 2018, they had failed to win at Leicester since February 2007.

And Grayson has plenty of derby-day recollections, having watched those ferocious battles while growing up.

"I remember being a young boy watching on TV with the Tuilagis beating up Chris Ashton and all that sort of stuff," said the 21-year-old.

"It's a tough place to go and play and though the last couple of years it's not been as much of a fortress as they'd want it to be, there's no doubt they're going to be flying into it - and we're going to be the same.

"A few people have said it's still pre-season games but once you get to local derbies there's no pre-season about it.

"Everyone will be full on, piling in, so we're just trying to focus on our processes and making sure we go there in as good a shape as we can."

With Dan Biggar at the World Cup with Wales, Grayson is Saints' current first-choice 10.

He has started all three matches so far, with Saints losing to Sale Sharks, Wasps and Saracens in the Premiership Rugby Cup.

But Grayson has relished the emphasis that has been placed on his young shoulders.

"It's been good, I've enjoyed the responsibility," he said.

"I probably didn't play as well as I wanted to in the first couple of games, against Sale and Wasps, but I was a bit better against Saracens.

"I'm just trying to get myself comfortable in starting games and taking control from the off.

"Against Sale it was about trying to get the team on the front foot when their pack was a bit more physical than ours.

"Against Wasps it was about not overplaying in the middle third and trying to put the pressure back on them.

"And against Saracens, we had a good 30, 40 minutes but we need to be more consistent throughout the game.

"I'm getting there and looking forward to Leicester this week."

Saints shipped 31 second-half points in their defeat to Saracens at Franklin's Gardens last Sunday.

But Grayson insists there were reasons to be cheerful after the 54-28 defeat ahead of the renewal of rivalries between the sides in the Premiership opener on October 19.

"Lots of positives there in the de-brief," he said.

"But against a team like that you can't give them the opportunities we gave them.

"We dropped the ball from kick-offs and turned the ball over in our own third.

"It gave them a chance to squeeze us and you can't be doubling up on errors.

"When we've got the ball we've got to be more accurate and when we haven't we need to be crystal clear and not give them any ins to the game."

Grayson lined up alongside summer signing Henry Taylor last Saturday.

Taylor turned in a superb scrum-half showing, scoring a try against his former club.

And Grayson said: "He did do well and he's good.

"He's a classic nine: gobby and full of energy.

"He's signed here and is looking to try to push Alex Mitchell and Coby (Reinach) as first-choice potentially.

"He's a good boy.

"He's a good-looking lad, he likes his hair and to make sure he's looking good on the pitch.

"But he's a good player and he's full of energy."