Sleightholme angling for prominent role after making long-awaited Saints return

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Readers of this newspaper version of this publication may have noticed that Ollie Sleightholme's face does not only pop up on the rugby pages these days.

That is because he now also graces the angling section, with his love of fishing helping him during his lengthy lay-off this year.

Sleightholme has used angling to take his mind off recovery matters, having suffered with concussion and hamstring issues since February.

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He started in the Premiership Rugby Cup semi-final at London Irish but was forced off with concussion and unable to play for the remainder of the campaign.

Ollie Sleightholme starts for Saints against Harlequins on Friday night (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)Ollie Sleightholme starts for Saints against Harlequins on Friday night (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Ollie Sleightholme starts for Saints against Harlequins on Friday night (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Sleightholme then suffered a hamstring injury in pre-season, ruling him out of the formative stages of this campaign.

But he’s back now, coming off the bench in the past two matches, against Exeter Chiefs and Leicester Tigers.

"It's been a bit of a weird one, coming back for the first games in nine months," Sleightholme said.

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"I had a long lay-off with head injuries and then did my hammy in pre-season so it's been a lot of ups and downs, but it's about trying to stay in and around everyone and just keeping yourself focused on something during that time otherwise you can get quite bogged down with it.

"If you can keep doing something and having other targets then that keeps your mind focused when you're not playing rugby.

"I do a bit of stuff with a company that set up different padel courts and there's one hopefully coming to Northampton and then a few around Harpenden and places like that.

"I've been doing that and also having targets off the pitch around recovery and some of the goals I set around my concentration and balance coming back from the head injury.

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"One of my things I use to take myself away from everything is fishing.

"A lot of lads use golf and other things but I use fishing.

"I go with my brother sometimes but it's mainly by myself."

Saints have been ultra-careful with Sleightholme, who has been hugely unfortunate with injuries during the early part of his career.

He explained: "We set up a plan to bring me in slowly, with me having a history of repeat hamstring injuries and long lay-offs from them.

"We made a plan that would be a bit of a longer process coming back just to make sure I got the load in my legs and it wasn't going to happen again.

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"It was getting my speed back and getting me to a point where my training load was slowly increasing rather than spiking really quickly.

"It seems to have worked so far so it's happy days.

"My body feels really good so I'm happy to be back and out there with the boys."

Sleightholme is now in his sixth season as part of the Saints first team, having racked up 27 tries in just 58 appearances.

"I got my 50th cap last year and it's been a good journey," said the extremely talented 23-year-old.

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"The one game that sticks out in my head is the win at Tigers last season.

"It was an unbelievable feeling there."

Unfortunately for Sleightholme and Saints, their most recent trip to Leicester Tigers wasn't as sweet as they suffered a 26-17 defeat at Mattioli Woods Welford Road last Saturday.

But focus quickly switches to another huge encounter this week as Harlequins come calling at cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens.

"It's what the league is now - every game's a big game," Sleightholme said.

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"It's good because it's so competitive, it's challenging and it's an environment you can really thrive in.

"Quins are definitely a very good team, definitely dangerous so we've got to have our eyes on that and be alert to everything.

"You can't beat a Friday night game here. There's nothing like it."