Hutchinson's happy to live on the edge at Saints

Rory Hutchinson turns up from training with boots in hand and sits in the Franklin's Gardens stands, surveying the lush green canvas in front of him.

By Tom Vickers
Thursday, 5th December 2019, 7:00 am
Rory Hutchinson has been running the show for Saints this season
Rory Hutchinson has been running the show for Saints this season

He has grown used to painting memorable pictures on the pitch in recent times, becoming a huge hit since boss Chris Boyd and attack coach Sam Vesty arrived at Saints in the summer of 2018.

At times, it has almost seemed like he is playing the game from the stands, influencing his own actions with a controller, such is his ability to see space and use it to the greatest effect.

Hutchinson has become a key cog in a style of play that has observers of the Saints swooning.

But you won't catch him getting carried away with his own form as he gives a modest response to any praise that comes his way.

"I'm really lucky to be given the opportunities week in, week out," Hutchinson said.

"I'm really enjoying my time under Chris (Boyd), Sam (Vesty) and Alan (Dickens), who has unfortunately left now. Alan played a big part for me when I was coming through.

"I'm just enjoying my rugby, we've got a great team and everyone wants to play for each other.

"A few years ago it wasn't looking that way but now we've turned it around.

"We want to go and bring titles back to Northampton."

Hutchinson, who is still just 23, was one of several young stars who put Leicester Tigers to the sword last weekend.

The likes of James Grayson and George Furbank also caught the eye once again as their club showcased the array of talent that has emerged from the Academy in recent years.

And one common theme among every one of the young guns is the lack of fear they show on the big stage.

"You obviously respect every team because no team is bad," Hutchinson explained.

"We move on from Leicester to Leinster now and we respect that Leinster were in the final last year and they've been in a lot of European rugby finals so they are a good team.

"But we're not going to speak about Leinster all the time, we want to worry about ourselves just as much.

"We want to go in there and challenge ourselves because we want to see where we're at against these good European teams.

"We (Saints' young players) are all pretty relaxed but when it comes to it we're on the money.

"We're all just really enjoying our rugby at the moment because we're getting to play with our best mates who we've grown up with through the Academy.

"Now a large majority of us are quite a big part of this team and it just makes it more special."

Saints scored five tries against Tigers with Hutchinson once again the architect of so much that was good about his side.

"The performance was really good," he said.

"We'd have liked to have started quicker but we were pretty consistent for the majority of the game and to get a scoreline like that against Leicester in a derby is great.

"From one to 23, everyone played their part.

"It was brilliant, a great atmosphere, a great day and it was great to be on the winning side.

"It is a massive game with the history of it and three or four years ago they were the ones winning all the derbies.

"Now it has switched over and we want to keep it that way for Northampton.

"It was a special day and I was lucky to be able to play in an occasion like that."

But luck isn't the biggest factor in Hutchinson's rise.

That owes much to determination and the delivery of his obvious talent, with the coaches the catalyst for that.

"We train like we play," he said.

"We are going to make mistakes and we do turn the ball over quite a lot, but when it doesn't turn over it pays off for us.

"We play that high-risk game, we know what the consequences are, but you've got to live on the edge if you want to play the best rugby.

"You can't be conservative.

"The game plan we've got here now everyone's bought into and it's exciting."

Hutchinson was recently rewarded with a new deal at Saints as the club fought off interest from elsewhere to keep hold of one of their prized assets.

But the player says he never really considered going elsewhere.

"I always wanted to stay at Northampton - it's all I know and it's been a massive part of my rugby journey," Hutchinson said.

"I felt I couldn't leave with what's to come.

"We built last year, we're building now and I want to see it through.

"It's exciting and hopefully there are some good times coming to Northampton."

Saints will hope the good times keep rolling this Saturday in what is a huge clash for the club.

They host Leinster in the first game of a Champions Cup Pool 1 double-header.

The two teams sit locked on nine points apiece, with Leinster unbeaten in all competitions this season.

And Hutchinson said: "When we got them in the draw we were really excited because we know how good a team they are.

"We're excited for the challenge and we know there are going to be opportunities for us.

"We're really looking forward to having it on our home patch and playing them back to back is even more special, being able to go over there.

"We're looking forward to it, we've done our homework and we're really looking forward to coming out here on Saturday.

"It's an early kick-off, 1pm so spag bol at 10am in the morning!"

Saints have met Leinster so often during the past decade, losing to the Irish giants in the Heineken Cup final in 2011 and meeting them in the pool stages in 2013/14 and 2016/17.

And Hutchinson has clear memories of some of those matches.

"I remember very well that Brian O'Driscoll between the legs pass (when Leinster won 40-7 at the Gardens in December 2013) and the Jamie Elliott run all the way after the interception (when Saints won 18-9 at the Aviva Stadium on the following weekend).

"I was watching it at home, I was still at school.

"They're two big memories for me and everyone's really looking forward to it coming back here - hopefully the fans are as well."

If Saints do get the chance to celebrate this weekend, they may just do it with a handshake.

The celebration, which became a regular occurrence during the double-winning season of 2013/14, made a return against Tigers last weekend.

And Hutchinson said: "It's a bit of fun, we don't need to be jumping all over the floor and things like that.

"It's a nice old-school celebration and everyone buys in and everyone enjoys it.

"I'm not too sure how it's all come back but I don't think it's about winning the league back then or anything.

"Everyone's just really enjoying it at the moment and it's good fun."