Academy scrum-half Alex Day helped the Wanderers book a home semi-final in the Aviva ‘A’ League on Monday – and he appears to have a bright future ahead of him.
The 19-year-old, who has three England Under 20 caps to his name, has been learning from one of the best in first-team No.9 Lee Dickson.
And he is now taking those skills into by the second-string arena, playing a key role in the Wanderers’ success story.
So, what does the future hold for the 2010/2011 Eastern Counties young player of the year? We find out in the latest of our Q&As with Saints’ budding stars.
For you young lads in the academy, you must be learning a lot from playing alongside the senior guys for the Wanderers this season?
“Absolutely. We’ve had the likes of Stephen Myler and Ryan Lamb playing for the Wanderers this year so it can only help our game playing with those players who have such experience.”
And training with them day in, day out must be pretty special as well?
“Training with England internationals can only help you. They help us and talk to us in training, telling us what we’re doing right and what we’re doing wrong so it helps us massively.”
As a No.9, it must be very helpful having an England international in Lee Dickson and Martin Roberts, who has played for Wales, around?
“I’ve done a lot of work with them, passing, kicking and it helps me massively.
“With Lee being one of the best scrum-halves in the country, it can only help me and he’s a great lad.”
Do you feel you’ve picked up little things from them that maybe you hadn’t when you’d been coming through the academy?
“Definitely. Playing in the academy you’re by yourself but coming into a Saints team with such big names helps you massively. The advice they give you helps you along.”
Lee Dickson may have played for England, but you’ve also had the chance to represent your country, at Under 20 level. How much of a boost has that been?
“It’s massive for me. It’s a big confidence boost to be picked for your country and to play for England so it’s a big boost and it helps me here.
“I bring things from there to here, which helps.”
It must be good to have so many other Saints players in the England setup as well?
“Yeah, we’ve got quite a lot of players in the senior squad who are doing really well and a few in the 20s as well so it does help a lot. The future’s bright.
There are now five Saints boys in the England Under 20 squad. That must be a boost?
“Yeah, it’s really good to have a few of the boys there.
“There’s a nice little rivalry with England in terms of which clubs have got the most players in the squad and I think us and Exeter are winning at the moment.
“It’s good for the club to have so many players go through to the England squad.”
There are players from a number of different clubs in the squad. Do you learn things from them in terms of style and approach?
“I’m sure they pick up tips from us and we pick up tips from them in terms of training styles, but usually when you’re with England, you’re with England.
“We have the same goal and apart from a bit of banter, clubs stay out of it. It’s very much focused on England when we’re there.”
The likes of Tom Collins and Will Hooley have joined you in the Under 20s squad this summer. You’re a bit more senior, having already won a few caps, so do you boss them around?
“I try to boss them around a bit but they don’t really listen to me. But it’s really good for them. They’ve worked hard and they deserve their place in the team.
“It’s a credit to the academy, bringing through players, and it can only be good for the first team eventually.”
Back to Saints, how does life with the academy differ to when you’re with the senior team?
“It’s not too different to be honest. The atmosphere’s very much the same. It’s all good lads trying to make a living out of rugby.”
Obviously you’ve got a former scrum-half Alan Dickens coaching you in the academy as well. How much of a help has he been?
“He’s been massive in my development. I don’t think I’d be where I am without him.
“He works with me a lot. Me and Lee go out and do kicking and he’s working with us. He’s been massive for me.”
Some of the academy youngsters could get some game time in the LV Cup and on the bench for the first team this season so that aim is presumably there for you?
“Definitely. The LV= Cup isn’t too far away now and hopefully if Lee gets the chance to go away with England I can push for a first-team place.”
Do Jim Mallinder, Paul Grayson and Dorian West pull you aside and tell you what you need to be doing on a regular basis?
“Yeah, they always tell us what we need to, give us advice and give us guidelines. You can only listen to such top coaches.”
Being a No.9, part of the job is bossing the forwards about. Have you had much chance to do that with the first-team guys?
“Absolutely. Tuesdays we have our team sessions and Lee Dickson really helps because he pushes me to swap in.
“If you don’t boss the forwards around they let you know about it and the only way is to boss them about. It helps you develop because if you can boss them, you can boss anyone.”
You obviously grabbed a home semi-final in the Aviva ‘A’ League on Monday night. How important is it to do well in that competition this season?
“It’s massive. The Saints coaches and the England coaches watch it so if you’re playing well in that then you hopefully go on to play in the first team.”