Attack coach Vesty gives his take on Saints' emerging backline stars

Sam Vesty says the hard work is paying off for emerging Saints star Tommy Freeman.
Ollie SleightholmeOllie Sleightholme
Ollie Sleightholme

Freeman has come to the fore in 2021, delivering a string of hugely impressive performances for the black, green and gold.

He produced an eye-catching cameo at Worcester last weekend, starring as Saints secured a superb 62-14 Gallagher Premiership success at Sixways.

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And attack coach Vesty has hailed the 20-year-old back for the hard yards he has put in to ensure his transition from Academy life to Premiership appearances has been smooth.

Tom JamesTom James
Tom James

"Tommy's a grounded kid, he's playing really well and he knows all the good things he's doing come from the hard work he's put in," Vesty said.

"As long as you always go back to that, it's a good place to be.

"We knew Tommy was going be a good player and how quickly he's felt really comfortable has been a testament to how hard he's worked at the parts of his game that a year ago possibly weren't up to scratch.

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"Those things are now at a really good level, which allows him to go and put all of his game on the pitch.

Tommy FreemanTommy Freeman
Tommy Freeman

"He has put in a lot of work to get to this stage."

Freeman is not the only talented 20-year-old making a big impact at Saints.

Ollie Sleightholme scored four tries against Worcester last weekend and has looked lethal when given a starting chance on the wing.

And Vesty said: "Sleights knows where the tryline is and he almost had no right to go and score that first try.

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"He made every tackle a nightmare for them to make and when you do that and you're as fast and competitive as he is, you get over the line.

"I was really impressed with him."

Tom James is not as young as Freeman and Sleightholme but he has a similar paucity of experience in the Premiership, having joined from Championship club Doncaster Knights last summer.

But James is making top-level life look easy, scoring tries for fun and even coming on to play on the wing last weekend, helping to set up two late scores with some fine work.

"TJ is a really good footballer and you put him wherever and he's a competitor," said Vesty of the 27-year-old scrum-half.

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"He's tough and he makes good decisions on the ball because he's a good rugby player.

"Fair play to him, he looked really comfortable out there."

With players like Freeman, Sleightholme and James starting to make it tough for the coaches to leave them out, it has meant a lack of game time for more senior players.

The likes of Ahsee Tuala and Taqele Naiyaravoro have barely featured in recent weeks due to the amount of competition there is in the backline.

"They're absolutely desperate to play," Vesty said.

"Their chance will come and they know they have got to work hard and train hard.

"When they get their chance, it's there to be taken.

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"It's professional sport and it's a good place to be for the club, but it's not always a nice place to be when you're not getting all the games you want.

"But it's certainly good for the club."

What is also good for the club is that as good as the likes of Freeman and Sleightholme have been, Saints don't have to rely on them to start every single game.

The coaches are carefully managing the workload of their players.

And Vesty said: "It's a luxury we have because we have a good squad and good depth so we don't have to flog people.

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"We can keep them fresh, keep them in a real good physical space and a mental space as well.

"We're able to keep a lot of people alive and hungry.

"Keeping that competition for the back three and other areas is really healthy for the club.

"They're good problems to have for the coaches."