New boy Shepherd will make up for Ashton loss

Northampton Saints fans worried about the departure of Chris Ashton to Saracens should not fear – Aussie international Cameron Shepherd will more than fill the England man’s boots.

At least that is the view of former Gloucester boss Dean Ryan.

The 28-year-old former Australian international is the leading points-scorer for Western Force in the Super 15 and is comfortable playing at either full-back or on the wing.

And with his ability to kick goals, as well as change defence into attack with his long boot – Shepherd, if he can stay fit after recent injury problems, can be a gem of a signing according to Ryan.

“He’s (Cameron Shepherd) a footballer who gets a lot of points, and Jim’s (Mallinder) view is to bring more footballers in,” said Ryan.

“He’s an interesting guy – coming from Super 15 to the Premiership is a challenge, the ball is slower, there are more weather conditions and he needs to get his head down and work out the game here.

“It’s a slightly different type of environment, you can pick up tries in Super 15 but it’s not the same here, you have to go looking for it more.

“It’s hard to predict how he will go. I expect he will have a quiet first few months while he works out what the game is about and then he will explode.

“But he’s a good footballer and I think that’s key – Northampton are a good footballing side, they play with a lot of width with Ryan Lamb at 10 and that’s an exciting backline with George Pisi, Ben Foden and I think he will fit in and be a success in the Premiership.”

Ryan also backed Ken Pisi, who joins from New Zealand ITM Cup side North Harbour where he has spent the last five years, to follow in his brother’s footsteps at Franklin’s Gardens.

After joining from Clermont, George enjoyed a stunning debut season with the Saints picking up the players’ player and supporters’ player of the year award.

“I don’t know a huge amount about him (Ken Pisi) – I’ve seen little glimpses but I imagine he is from the same stock as George, with a big impact physically in the tackle,” added Ryan.

“Obviously he comes highly recommended – you’re not going to bring him in without him being recommended by the other Pisi who has been a sensation for me.

“At Clermont I watched him a couple of times and it didn’t seem to work but he has just come alive in the Premiership and he really suits the way Northampton play.

“He has a great kicking game at 13. What Pisi has done is offer that little bit of variety, that little bit of the unknown and having two of them in the backline will pose problems for sides.”

The J.P. Morgan Premiership Rugby 7s Series kicks off on 13 July at Harlequins, with rounds at Sale Sharks and Gloucester Rugby, and the final at Bath Rugby. Visit: www.jpmorgan7s.com to find out more.