New Saints centre Kellaway learned so much from close friend Horne

Andrew Kellaway made his Saints debut at Bath last weekend (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Andrew Kellaway made his Saints debut at Bath last weekend (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Andrew Kellaway spent years trying to learn from Rob Horne - now he's aiming to fill the massive void left by his compatriot at Saints.

Horne was forced to retire after sustaining full paralysis of his right arm during a game against Leicester Tigers in April.

Kellaway is a good friend of the 29-year-old, having played with him at Super Rugby side the Waratahs.

And now the new Saints centre is doing what he can to fit in at outside centre, which was a position Horne excelled in last season, earning the supporters' and players' player of the year prize in his only campaign in black, green and gold.

"I was fortunate to experience Rob from watching his game when I was a full-back and I picked some things up from him," said Kellaway.

"It's huge shoes to fill, but if I get the chance, I'll give it a real crack.

"I want to get in and add as much as I can as quickly as possible.

"I haven't played much for a long time so it's about getting back on the field and getting back to that form I had before I came over here."

One thing on Kellaway's CV that caught the eye of Saints supporters before his arrival was that he represented Australia at the World Rugby Under-20s Championship in 2014, breaking a try-scoring record for a single tournament with 10 in five appearances.

"It was good fun down in Auckland there, kind of English weather, a bit cold and a bit rainy," he said. "It was a good experience.

"I didn't have to do much for those tries, just catch and fall over the line.

"It was great fun back then but I try not to live in the past.

"I've moved positions around a bit since then, playing full-back at the Waratahs and then coming here and playing in the centres.

"It's a really welcome change to be moved to the centres and my progression's going well.

"A couple of injuries have dealt me stuff to work with, but it's coming along nicely."

So how did Kellaway's switch to Saints come about?

"(Former Saints technical coaching consultant) Alan Gaffney came over to England and it popped up on the radar then," Kellaway said. "He's obviously left since then but the ball was rolling and it kept going.

"I hadn't heard much about Northampton until Rob came here. I played a lot with Rob at home and kept a pretty keen eye on him once he moved over here.

"It was a pretty simple decision once it became my decision. It was an easy one to make.

"I spent a lot of time learning under Rob watching him before I even got to the Waratahs and I was fortunate enough to play alongside him.

"I would consider him a good close friend and a mentor.

"It was obviously a shame to see what happened here, but he had nothing but good things to say about this place."

Kellaway didn't have the ideal start to life at Saints as he was trying to overcome an injury when he arrived.

"I had a broken foot, finished rehabbing that a month ago and I'm back on top of that and raring to go," he said.

"It was tough coming to a new place, new people and not actually training. It made it tough to meet everyone and all that sort of stuff but everyone was so welcoming.

"It's been an easy transition and I'm very grateful for that."

And one man who has been particularly useful in Kellaway's settling-in period has been the player who he has been rivalling for the 13 shirt, Andy Symons.

Kellaway made his Saints debut last weekend, coming on to replace Symons after the former Gloucester man was forced off at half-time at Bath.

It was one house-mate taking over from another as the pair currently live together.

"I'm actually living with Andy Symons now so I was super disappointed to see him come off and fingers crossed for a speedy recovery," Kellaway said.

"We're good mates off the field and taking each other's heads off on it.

"Andy's a great bloke and he's the first to come up to me, say g'day, ask how I am and if I need anything. Funny enough, I've ended up living with him!"

As introductions to England go, Kellaway, who has left his three brothers and his parents back in Australia, has enjoyed an authentic experience.

His first appearance in Northampton colours came for the Wanderers at Sale's Heywood Road and he made his debut for Saints in driving rain at Bath last weekend.

"Sale was different," Kellaway said, smiling. "It was three hours on the bus, I hobbled off the bus and there was a man and his dog watching the match.

"It was raining sideways down in Bath and that was something different as well.

"It's all part of the experience for me and a big part of coming over here was learning a different style of footy with the weather.

"It's been eye-opening already."

Kellaway's next experience of English rugby is set to come at Bristol's Ashton Gate this afternoon.

Saints take on the newly-promoted team in a tricky encounter.

And Kellaway said: "I've already watched a bit of their previous games and they have a genuine crack.

"It's going to be an exciting game to watch and I'll be expecting to get run off the park.

"It's going to be good fun."