Denman ready for prop battle with England team-mate Brookes

Saints prop Gareth Denman
Saints prop Gareth Denman

There was glimpse of things to come for Saints fans at Twickenham last Sunday.

When Gareth Denman made his way on to the field to replace Kieran Brookes in England’s thumping win against Barbarians it was a nod to the future.

The pair will be battling it out for the Saints tighthead spot next season, with Brookes arriving from Newcastle Falcons this summer.

Denman believes his new rival, who is replacing Toulon-bound Salesi Ma’afu, will be a big hit.

But the former Rotherham prop is keen to ensure Brookes is the one occupying a replacements role rather than him.

“It’s good for the club to have two props in the England set-up,” Denman said.

“Kieran’s a good player and he will make a big impact for us next season.

“We’re the same age and I’ve known him a long time, playing with him and against him.

“I’m sure he’ll fit right in here.

“For me it’s just about continuing to learn and fighting for starts.”

Denman admits his inclusion in the England squad for the battle with the Barbarians was a surprise.

But it was an experience he cherished as he crowned a superb first two seasons at Saints with some international recognition.

“It was great to get on and I learned a lot from it,” said the 24-year-old.

“You’re playing with some great players and it was a pretty positive experience for me.

“I was a bit surprised to get the call-up, but I know I’ve made good improvement this season.

“It’s a first for me and and it was a really big day. It was a proud moment for me and my family.

“They were all there and it seemed like half of Rotherham was, too.”

Denman was joined in the England squad by Saints team-mates Lee Dickson, Jon Fisher and Alex Waller, while Samu Manoa was in the Barbarians side.

And Denman said: “It was great to have such a big Saints contingent and good to see Lee captaining the side.

“It was good to have the boys around and also to play against Samu.

“He came back to Northampton with us and it was nice to meet up now the season is over.”

It is a big summer for Denman, who will soon be getting married.

And he will then be able to look forward to another big season at Saints as he continues his quest to earn more honours with club and country.

“As a prop it’s always a long process to become the finished article,” said Denman, who has made 57 appearances for Northampton.

“I know I’ve got a long way to go but Salesi’s helped me massively.

“It’s been a really good contest and we’ve become good friends, but at the end of the day you want to get the shirt.”

And how does Denman reflect on last season, which failed to yield silverware for Saints, but did see them top the Premiership table?

“We’ve grown as a team and though we had a lot of disappointment, there were also plenty of positives,” he said.

“We’re a team on the up and hopefully that can continue.”