Rhys Oakley takes his chance to impress Saints coaches

IMPRESSED - Saints coaches Paul Grayson, Jim Mallinder and Dorian West (picture: Linda Dawson)
IMPRESSED - Saints coaches Paul Grayson, Jim Mallinder and Dorian West (picture: Linda Dawson)

PAUL GRAYSON says trialist Rhys Oakley ‘threw his hat into the ring’ for a Saints contract after a strong showing against Leinster on Saturday.

The No. 8, who has two Wales caps to his name, came on as a replacement in the second half of the 43-0 victory at Franklin’s Gardens.

Oakley was in the squad as cover, with summer signings Gerrit-Jan van Velze and Sam Dickinson ruled out with injury.

And kicking coach Grayson was impressed with the showing of the 31-year-old, who lists Leeds Carnegie and Bourgoin among his most recent clubs.

“Rhys did well, put in two or three good tackles and ran with the ball strongly a few times so for a guy who’s only been around for a week, he did well,” said Grayson.

“You’d have to ask Jim (Mallinder) about that (an extended stay) and what the actual setup is regarding his stay but in terms of his performance on Saturday, he threw his hat into the ring.”

South African ace van Velze, a recruit from Super Rugby side Blue Bulls, was not in the Saints squad for the game after taking a knock to the head in the 30-28 defeat against Zebre eight days earlier.

But Grayson says there is nothing to worry about and claims the 24-year-old is on track for a comeback against Moseley this Thursday or, more likely, Edinburgh at Murrayfield a day later.

“Gerrit’s just a little bit sore so with two games this week we’re just looking to get him fit and get him back in to the squads for next week,” said Grayson.

Despite the absence of van Velze, Saints sizzled in the summer sun on Saturday, leaving the management team smiling after a convincing victory against the Heineken Cup holders.

Leinster opted not to field star names such as Brian O’Driscoll and Jonny Sexton and struggled to cope with Saints’ intensity, leaving Grayson in good spirits.

“You can only play the team that’s in front of you and it was a tight game until the last 20 minutes when we pulled away,” he said.

“It was a good pre-season run out. You want games to be tough and physical and it was.

“We were quite clinical at the end and kept the scoreboard ticking over so overall it was a good afternoon’s work.”