Saints prop Hill ready to make his mark at Welford Road

This weekend, Paul Hill returns to the scene of one of the greatest tries never scored.

Paul Hill is relishing the chance to shine at Welford Road (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Paul Hill is relishing the chance to shine at Welford Road (picture: Sharon Lucey)

The prop has bittersweet memories of Welford Road after what happened on Leicester Tigers turf last January.

Saints were eventually beaten 30-27 by a last-gasp Freddie Burns penalty, but it may all have been different if Hill’s effort had not been ruled out by the television match official and referee Wayne Barnes.

The front row forward, who weighs in at 117kg, according to the Saints website, found some surprising pace and sprinted over the line from 50 metres.

But the TMO felt there was a high tackle from Luther Burrell in the build-up and the stunning score was disallowed.

It would have put Saints ahead in the game, as they were 21-17 down when it happened, and they were eventually to taste late heartbreak at the home of their bitter rivals again.

Hill was at the Saints media day this week, and the subject of that try and the events of last season’s game were on the agenda.

“It was alright - it would have been better if it was a try,” said Hill, who has not yet scored a try that wasn’t ruled out for Saints.

“I’d like to give it a good crack and hopefully I can get another one of them, but I don’t think I’ll get another one like it in my career.

“I made it to the line and the fact it didn’t count as a try is a shame, but that’s life.”

Hill is set to get plenty of game time at Welford Road this weekend, with Kieran Brookes banned.

Brookes was sent off in last Friday’s defeat to Newcastle Falcons at Franklin’s Gardens and was handed a two-week suspension at an RFU disciplinary hearing on Tuesday.

That opens the door for Hill, who has only started two games so far this season, coming off the bench on 10 occasions.

And he said: “I’m looking forward to it.

“Welford Road is a great opportunity for me to put a message out there that I’m pushing on.”

But Hill is well aware of how difficult it is to win at Welford Road.

Saints have never won at the ground during Jim Mallinder’s time at the club, with their most recent victory at Leicester coming in February, 2007.

And Hill said: “It’s always a big game.

“It’s something every single player picks up and nothing has to be said in meetings.

“We know that this is going to be one of the biggest games of the year.

“It’s a compact stadium to play at and it just echoes. It’s so loud!

“It was my first time playing there last season and I was shocked by how loud it can get.

“It completely drowns out words on the pitch.

“It was one of the best atmospheres I’ve played in.”

Saints’ forwards will be asked to go toe-to-toe with the imposing Tigers pack.

And Hill said: “Leicester are traditionally one of the stronger forward packs you will come up against, but hopefully we can go up there and put them to the sword.”

Saints could really do with a win, as they currently sit seven points behind fourth-placed Tigers in the Aviva Premiership standings.

But Hill said: “The table sometimes doesn’t really affect how we go into the game at the weekend.

“This is Welford Road and we’ve got to do what we need to in this game.”