Hill relishing extra responsibility at Saints

Paul Hill is preparing to become a father again in a couple of weeks' time - but it's not just off the field that the prop is taking on extra responsbility.

Paul Hill
Paul Hill

Because on the pitch, the 27-year-old is shouldering the hopes of Saints, who are still competing on two fronts this season.

With Ehren Painter set to miss the rest of the campaign due to a bicep injury, Hill's role in the team has been highlighted.

He will be tasked with playing the majority of minutes at tighthead, with Conor Carey providing cover.

But having such a big mission is not something that fazes Hill.

In fact, he is savouring the chance to try to keep a tight grip on the Saints No.3 shirt.

"Ehren is injured and out for the rest of the season so it's all down to me and Conor to prop up the team," Hill said.

"I was sharing a lot of game time with Ehren earlier in the season but now I've just got to keep going and keep plugging away.

"It's about throwing yourself in it and I like that responsibility to be honest.

"We had fresh legs at the start of the season but if you're consistently playing then you get more confidence and that's something I enjoy.

"Your body is sore and you are sometimes limping from game to game but in terms of your ability to read the game, it becomes second nature really."

Hill has played his part in a Saints resurgence in recent times, with the black, green and gold having won five successive matches in all competitions.

Next up is a trip to Kingsholm, which is actually where Saints last lost as Gloucester snatched a 35-30 win back on March 5.

"Gloucester is a good test," Hill said. "We lost to them in the Prem so we've got a good idea of what we're facing.

"The boys are excited, we're on a good run of form, confidence is high, morale is high and if we can take it into the weekend we'll be good.

"When the boys who are playing in the Premiership Rugby Cup are winning as well, it gives even more confidence to the team and there's a lot less disappointment.

"It's been reflected and the training standards are really high at the moment."

The defeat at Gloucester last month put Saints in a tricky position.

It was their fourth loss on the spin, the third in a row that came via late heartbreak.

But Chris Boyd's side have bounced back superbly since then and they are now just four points adrift of a play-off place in the Premiership with a game in hand on fourth-placed Exeter.

However, it is staying in the Challenge Cup hunt that takes priority this weekend.

"We had a few of those games this season where we've felt like we've got it and then let it slip in the last few minutes," Hill said.

"The positive thing is we've shown there's not a team this year who we can't put points on the board against.

"But it's about firming up our defence a bit and making sure that when we get those opportunities we convert and we deny them as much as we can.

"We're on a good run and we've got to keep it going."

Saints looked comfortable for the first 50 minutes against Gloucester last month, cruising into the lead.

But they were eventually overwhelmed by the home side's impressive mauling game.

And Hill is well aware of what Saints must do to stop it this weekend.

He said: "The biggest thing is to deny them the right.

"If your discipline is as clean as it can get then you deny them the chance to kick to those corners and get in those good mauling positions.

"When they are right in front of you, you've just got to throw your head in.

"If they get that maul going, it gives them confidence and they get the wind in their sails.

"It's about cutting that off as early as you can."