Robbie's ready to back up big first season at Saints

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Robbie Smith is ready to back up his big first season at Saints.

Smith was something of an under-the-radar signing from Newcastle Falcons last summer, but he went on to become a key man for the black, green and gold.

The 25-year-old made 20 appearances and became a real challenger for regular starts in the No.2 shirt.

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Now he is desperate to hit even higher levels in his second campaign as a Saint.

Robbie Smith is setting his sights on a big second season at Saints (picture: Adam Gumbs)Robbie Smith is setting his sights on a big second season at Saints (picture: Adam Gumbs)
Robbie Smith is setting his sights on a big second season at Saints (picture: Adam Gumbs)

"I loved it last season," Smith said.

"Obviously it was my first season here so I wasn't really sure what to expect. We had some pretty good hookers here so I wasn't sure on game time and stuff like that.

"I just put my head down and tried to work as hard as I could and try to get as many minutes as I was able to get.

"I got lucky with a few injuries but I feel like I grew in confidence last year with getting the game time at that top level and I ended up playing in some pretty big games for the Saints, finishing up with playing in the semi-final (at Saracens).

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"For me it was a big season, if anything it's just boosted my confidence.

"The fact I've got a bit of money in the bank with playing last year, it's big. But more for the confidence in myself.

"I know I can compete at this level. I know I can compete with the best teams in the Premiership. I played in that semi-final, I felt like I held my own.

"Now for me, in my head, it's how do I take it to the next level? How do I kick on myself, try to play even more games for Saints but also get in that international camp? How do I make the most out of having a bit of confidence? How do I kick on from here?

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"Having confidence is great but I think every season is a new season, you've got to back it up each year. I am excited for this season."

Smith had no trouble adapting to life on the biggest of Saints stages.

And he said: "I find games like that, you think a lot about them before you actually even play in them.

"One thing I actually learned about playing those top teams and playing players who are well-known, England players or international players, thinking about them is far worse than actually playing them.

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"I found in my first couple of games pretty quickly that if you just go at it full force with as much as you can, that's the best thing that you can do.

"I found that just not thinking about stuff too much and just putting your head down and working as hard as you can, that will take care of it on the day. That was the best way for me to go about it."

Smith feels like he made huge strides as a player during his first season.

He said: "The belief the coaches put in me... it would've been very easy for them after getting some game time and other hookers coming back from injury to put me back to the side.

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"The big thing for me was the belief and confidence they put in me to keep giving me another shot, because I wasn't playing badly, I was playing pretty well.

"It was a massive confidence booster for me.

"You've got some of the best players in the world here kicking about training. I just feel like the squad, with how young it is, with how ambitious the group is, there's no way you can't get better as a player at Saints.

"It's a place that's constantly striving to develop players and kick on and try to do well for both the club but also the individual players."

Smith was competing with Mike Haywood, Tom Cruse and Sam Matavesi for starts at hooker last season.

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With Haywood having retired, the black, green and gold drafted in Curtis Langdon, who was playing at Montpellier last season.

And Langdon has already shown signs of becoming an important player for Saints.

"Curtis is a great player," Smith said. "I've enjoyed competing with him this pre-season.

"I think the biggest thing for me with Curtis is the fact he's a similar age to me and he's also got the same ambitions as me.

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"So for me I want to play as much as I can for Saints, which I am sure he does as well.

"But then the next step for me is trying to kick on for international honours which I know is his (ambition) as well.

"You don't want to compete too much because I've got my game and he's got his game, but I think just having somebody there that's a similar age with similar ambitions, I feel like we've driven each other, especially in pre-season.

"I am sure we will see that come game time as well."

Smith and Langdon both laid strong foundations early in their careers at Newcastle Falcons and Sale Sharks respectively.

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"We did play against each other when I was at Newcastle and he was at Sale," Smith said.

"He's a player who likes to get his hands on the ball and show a bit of physicality which I would say I am as well.

"It's going to be a good year competing with him."

Saints' first two away games of the Gallagher Premiership season actually come against the former clubs of Smith and Langdon.

They will go to Sale for the curtain raiser on October 15 with a trip to Newcastle following two weeks later.

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And the prospect of such tests only excites Smith as Saints look to show improvement, particularly in defence.

"Obviously it's a long pre-season with the World Cup – I think the way the S&C coaches have approached it has been really good," he said.

"We had a massive emphasis on our physical size and strength as a team. I feel like I've really enjoyed it. It's nice not to do a pre-season that's full of running.

"Physicality is something that, in defence especially, is something that Saints probably need to improve on from last year, so I think that goes hand in hand with improving our physical size and strength. Hopefully we will see that on the pitch this year.

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"It's been a really long pre-season, it feels like we've been at it forever and we're keen to get the league games kicked on.

"I feel we will see a lot of benefits from it this year the way it has been structured."

But while Saints are looking to improve defensively, Smith actually feels that is one of his best personal traits.

"I feel like I am a good defender, I feel like that's one of my strengths," he said.

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"But I feel I could get my hands on the ball a little bit more, in and around the try-scoring area, those tight carries, where the taller guys aren't as suited.

"I am 5ft pretty much so getting down low isn't really an issue for me.

"Trying to get my hands on the ball a little bit more and those tough carries, just adding to the team's already unbelievable attack is my goal."