Diggin’s delight at new Saints role

NEW ROLE - Paul Diggin will combine playing with coaching at Saints next season (picture by Linda Dawson)

NEW ROLE - Paul Diggin will combine playing with coaching at Saints next season (picture by Linda Dawson)

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Paul Diggin says he wants to continue playing first-team rugby for Saints for ‘another couple of years at least’ after signing a new player-coach contract at the club.

The wing, who was unable to play a single first-team game last season due to a knee injury sustained last summer, will take up the new role ahead of the 2013/14 campaign.

It means he will work with the academy as well as scrapping for a place in Jim Mallinder’s squad plans on a weekly basis.

Diggin is now back to full fitness following last season’s injury struggles and despite taking on coaching duties, he is adamant he can still be an asset on the playing side of things.

“Hopefully I can combine both roles,” he said. “I still want to be running out on the wing or at full-back for Northampton Saints for another couple of years at least.

“Obviously I’m 28 years of age and the opportunity to be part of the Saints coaching team is one I couldn’t turn down.

“It’s an exciting one really. I feel it’s my next natural progression in rugby.

“I really enjoy coaching and I was unfortunate to have that bad injury at the start of last season, but it gave me an opportunity to take the step up in my coaching.

“I loved my time at (local club) BBOB and I can’t thank them enough for helping me on my coaching journey.

“With Paul Grayson moving on and Alan Dickens taking on more work with the seniors it opened up a space for me to help Mark Hopley out and I thoroughly enjoyed that.

“I learned from Alan Dickens and Mark Hopley’s been a massive help through the whole thing with my style of coaching and how I’ve got to talk to the players. Those guys have really helped me out.”

Diggin was able to play for the Wanderers during the final flings of last season and his knee has stood up well to the rigours of a return to playing rugby.

And he is now looking to push himself further by competing with the likes of Jamie Elliott, George North and Ken Pisi for a starting spot next season.

“My knee is brilliant,” he said. “It was fixed and I played a couple of games at the end of last season.

“I played a sevens tournament, which was probably the hardest thing because of the stop-starting. My knee came through that very well so with a good pre-season behind me I can’t see any reason why I can’t be pushing the guys that have done so well this year.

“The likes of Jamie Elliott has done really well, he’s took his opportunities really well, but hopefully if I’m given an opportunity I can repay the coaches.

“Obviously I’ve got to have one eye on developing the players for the future and some of the guys coming through are very, very exciting.”

Diggin’s dual role means he will be a busy man throughout the upcoming campaign, but plans are being put in place with regard to how he trains.

He explained: “My week won’t be a typical Saints rugby week, it will differ. It will be a structured week for me.

“It’s something myself, Nick Johnston, Dusty Hare and Jim will sit down and work out where I am and if I’m needed for the Saints.

“Obviously I’ll be balancing my days with the academy. In pre-season my role is primarily with the academy and my training will fit around the academy sessions over at Cambridge and with Northampton.

“To get the best out of me I can’t be training from half 7 to four and then going out and doing academy sessions or vice versa being on my feet all day with the academy at nine to 4 then expected to train the next day.

“It will be a little bit easier during the season because we (the academy) only have one session in the week on a Tuesday and a game at the weekend.

“If I’m not involved with Northampton then I will be with the academy. There’s enough good coaches around to help out with the backs if I’m not there.”

Diggin has been at Saints since the age of 16 and it now seems he can look forward to plenty more years at Franklin’s Gardens.

Paul Grayson, who left the club in November, spent 19 years at Saints as a player and coach and that is an achievement Diggin would love to emulate.

“Grays was a fantastic servant to the club and if I can emulate what he did that would be fantastic,” he said. “He had a good rapport with the fans and I’d like to think I do too.

“As a coach he worked really hard. He was there through the tough times and came out the back end of it.

“It’s a role where you’re constantly just learning and having to evolve with the game. Grays was one of those who was always on the curve, bringing new ideas in and that’s something you’ve got to be as a coach.

“You can’t be doing the same thing every week. You have to keep the players and coaches around you motivated and if I can be involved with the Saints for 19 years that would be an amazing achievement.”