Saints Q&A: Prop Paul Hill on his whirlwind season
It's been a whirlwind season for Saints prop Paul Hill.
A young player with a huge reputation, he arrived at Franklin’s Gardens from Yorkshire Carnegie last summer looking to get some game time to aid his progression.
But, just a few months later, he had done enough to earn a place in England’s Six Nations squad.
Hill, a Junior World Championship winner in 2014, made his debut in the victory in Italy last month and his rapid rise to prominence continues.
The 21-year-old has been back at Saints in recent weeks, with club-mate Kieran Brookes taking his place in the England squad for the final two Six Nations games.
And this week, we caught up with the player who seems set to add an abundance of England caps to the one he secured in Rome.
Paul, lots to talk about since we last saw you - how have you been finding the past few months with England and everything else?
“It’s been good. I’ve really enjoyed it, going away, being involved in Six Nations stuff and then coming back and getting game time for my club.
“I’ve definitely enjoyed it.”
How much does going away with the England senior team improve you as a player?
“It’s a step up in the level of rugby.
“You’ve got the top players from the Premiership and having those players around you is always going to make you a better player.
“It’s definitely a good aspect of being in camp.”
How did it feel to make your England debut?
“It was great.
“In Italy, in front of a massive stadium like that - I’ve never played in front of a crowd that big.
“We have thousands here at the Gardens, but there were even more there.
“It was great to achieve something that I’ve wanted since being a young lad. It was a childhood aspiration. I really enjoyed it.”
Did you get nervous when you were on the bench waiting to come on?
“I don’t think it’s a step up in terms of that, it’s just what I’m used to.
“You can’t let your nerves get the better of you - I know I didn’t get long - in any situation on a pitch.
“You’ve just got to stay level-headed.”
You’ve had a lot to deal with already this season, so that must have prepared you well?
“Yeah. It was a good stepping stone.
“You’ve just got to take it in your stride really, which I tried to do.”
Did your club-mates help you in the international setup?
“Yeah, having Saints lads in the setup really helps if you need someone to talk to in terms of general play stuff.
“You spend a lot of time in camp so it’s always good to have a quick coffee with one of the boys.”
How satisfying is it to know you’ve played your part in a Grand Slam winning campaign?
“It’s only a small part I’ve played, but it’s great to have that feeling and have a medal to go alongside it.
“I’m always striving to get better in those situations.”
You’ve come back in at Saints and the team has been doing well during the Six Nations period...
“We’re doing really well. We’ve won five of the past seven games so that’s a good run.
“We just need to try to get a few more wins under the belt for the final push this season.
“It’s crunch time now, so the most important thing is to focus on that.
“The Grand Slam is done and now it’s about focusing on that last block of Premiership fixtures.”
How do you feel about facing Harlequins on Sunday?
“I think we’ve prepared well this week and it’s good to have the big players back, the likes of George North.
“It’s good to have the international lads back in the system and hopefully they’ll give us the extra push that we need.”