Soane Tonga’uiha says he always knew Alex Waller would earn England recognition one day.
And the Tongan prop couldn’t be happier to see his former deputy showing his class on the biggest stage.
Waller is currently on England’s tour of New Zealand, having enjoyed a sensational season at Saints.
The 24-year-old scored the last-gasp winning try in the Aviva Premiership final, capping a campaign that saw him come to the fore following an injury to Alex Corbisiero. Waller provided stern competition for Tonga’uiha during the Tongan’s seven-year stint at Franklin’s Gardens.
But the Kettering-born front row forward has had a chance to start for the first-team on a regular basis during the previous campaign - and he’s taken it with both hands.
“I always knew that Waller was right behind me when I was there and he’s done really well to step up,” said Tonga’uiha, who left Saints for Racing Metro last summer and will move on to Oyonnax ahead of the new season.
“He’s really put his hand up and shown how much of a class player he is.
“I’ve always tipped him to be playing for England and fair play to him, he’s really stepped up to that.
“He’s helped carry on the tradition of a strong forward pack, which was what Saints based their success on.
“It’s a bit different now because Alex King has had the impact on releasing some of the backs, with players like George North and Kahn (Fotuali’i).
“That helps with the variation but the core set piece is there and the boys have not taken a step back from the last few years.
“They’ve taken a step forward.”