Young star Sleightholme savouring his big Saints opportunities
While a lot of the talk around young wingers in the Premiership this season has so far focused on a Gloucester ace, Saints have a prolific teenage wide player of their own.
Ollie Sleightholme, who doesn’t turn 20 until April, may not have got the headlines that Louis Rees-Zammit of Gloucester and now Wales, has had, but he appears to possess similar potential.
And that theory is backed up by statistics, with Sleightholme having scored 10 tries in just 17 appearances for the Saints first team.
He has only started 11 of those matches, making his record even more eye-catching.
And when you consider the teams he has faced, his status as one of the best young finishers in the Premiership continues to grow.
Sleightholme started in all three of Saints’ Champions Cup pool stage games this season, scoring in the matches at Benetton and Leinster.
He also looked strong in the game at Lyon, lining up on the wing as his team claimed their first win in France since 2011.
Sleightholme kept his place for the game against London Irish last month but saw his night cut short by concussion just a minute before the break.
But Sleightholme is simply savouring the fact that he has been able to play so many big Champions Cup and Premiership games at such a young age.
And he has thanked the coaches for their show of faith.
“I’ve had some really good chances and I’m really enjoying it,” Sleightholme said.
“It’s nice to have the belief put in you by the coaching group to give you those opportunities and it’s been good this year.
“It’s really good for me (to have played in Champions Cup matches) and it gives me the exposure to that level of rugby, which really helps me to improve my game.
“It means I can cope under the pressure of a European competition.
“It is nice and it is really enjoyable.
“Playing in Europe can be a step up, but physically and mentally it’s not too different.
“Obviously when you’re playing in France and at Leinster and knowing what the fans are like there, it’s a bit different to being in the Premiership.
“Competition wise, bar Leinster, it’s probably not too different.”
Sleightholme has taken it all in his stride and he scored just seconds after coming off the bench on his Premiership debut against Wasps last season.
Whenever he plays, he so often scores.
But he feels that owes much to the players around him and the style Saints have adopted since Chris Boyd’s arrival.
“It’s really good and we want to get into those wide channels, which is what you want as a winger,” he said.
“With the players I’ve got around me, it’s a great team to play in.”
Sleightholme, son of former Saints player Jon, began his rugby career as a six-year-old at Northampton Old Scouts and quickly followed in his father’s footsteps.
He linked up with Saints for the first time when he was 13 and made a strong impression during his Academy days before graduating to the first team last season.
But he knows he still has plenty of work to do to get to where he wants to be.
“With me, it’s only my second year in a professional rugby environment so it’s about me nailing down my basics and stuff like that,” said Sleightholme, who has also displayed his try-scoring prowess with the England Under-20s.
“It’s about me knowing my role.”