Saints full-back Freeman aims to upset his heroes

"I was on the phone to mum when I heard the team and she couldn't believe it. She said we thought you'd be playing for them but now you're playing against them."

Friday, 5th March 2021, 12:38 pm
Updated Friday, 5th March 2021, 12:40 pm
Tommy Freeman scored his first Saints try last weekend (picture: Peter Short)

Those are the words of Tommy Freeman, who will start for Saints against a club he grew up supporting on Sunday.

Freeman counts Harlequins players such as Nick Evans and Mike Brown, who will be his opposite number at the Twickenham Stoop this weekend, as his rugby heroes.

And now the talented full-back, who turned 20 on Friday, will look to get one over on them.

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In the process, he may have to disappoint his parents slightly, especially his dad, who is a Quins supporter.

"Dad's obviously going to be a bit half and half because he's a big Quins fan but he'll back me, I guess, and he's taken a liking to Saints now," Freeman said, laughing.

"There's actually a video with (former Saints centre) Jon Clarke online post-game at Harlequins when I was about 10 years old and I remember me all dressed up in Quins stuff. Terrible."

That footage, of Freeman crashing a Clarke interview down at the Twickenham Stoop can be found on YouTube - and it's well worth a watch.

It was from a game nine years ago, which Saints lost, and Clarke has since gone on to play a big part in Freeman becoming a Northampton player.

Talking about his rugby journey, Freeman said: "I was at the Leicester Academy from Under-13s to Under-16s but it was based on travelling because we were based in the Norfolk area.

"Dad was in the RAF so we were posted but when I first got introduced to rugby was when we lived down in London so I followed Harlequins as a youngster.

"I went to the Leicester Academy until 16 and then went to Saints for Under-18s and I took a liking to Saints and that's it really.

"One of the teachers where I boarded (Culford School), Charlie Sadler, who was in the Saints Academy, recommended Moulton College so I went there.

"I didn't have much belief in my first year there but in the second year I hit my growth spurt and Clarkey came in.

"He definitely helped me massively and gave me a lot of confidence.

"He asked me to come to a Saints Under-18s training session and it went from there.

"There are a few coaches out there who could take credit, but in terms of the time-frame he did a lot for me and helped to put me in the spotlight."

Saints are now so grateful that Quins didn't pick Freeman up and Leicester opted not to keep him.

Because the full-back has shown since making his way into the Saints starting 15 that he has a huge future ahead of him.

Oxford-born Freeman scored his first try for the Northampton first team last weekend, dotting down against Bath.

And he said: "It's a boyhood dream for sure.

"From the age of 10, I've always wanted to be a rugby player - and now I'm here.

"I've been migrated into it really well and the coaches have prepared me as best they can physically and mentally.

"It's an honour to be in the position I am."

Freeman is the latest in a long line of young players to benefit from belief shown by Saints boss Chris Boyd.

"Boydy is very good at giving us young boys a shot," Freeman said. "He's very into training and if you train well, you get your shot.

"You always walk into the coaches' office to ask what you can do and how you can be better and Boydy is good at giving you little tips here and there to push you even further."

Freeman came on against Gloucester when George Furbank got injured back in January - and he hasn't looked back since.

He said: "I came on earlier than expected at Gloucester but loved every moment of it.

"In the next game, at Wasps, to go out and start was also really good.

"I definitely consider myself very lucky with the situation I'm in compared to some of the other boys and when those opportunities come I've just got to take them.

"If you have a good game, you'll keep playing. The day you don't, you might not get that opportunity again.

"It's about doing everything you can and doing the best you can for the team."

And Freeman, who has now made six Saints appearances, knows that the hard work is just beginning for him as he bids to become first-choice full-back for years to come.

"Still being really young, I've got a lot to learn," he said.

"Matt Proctor is always talking to me and there's still loads of things I need to do.

"It will come from playing more games."