Hill raring to go after learning lessons at Saints

Paul Hill will start for Saints at Exeter on Saturday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Paul Hill will start for Saints at Exeter on Saturday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

After a season in and out of the Saints side, Hill gets the chance to cement his place during the next couple of weeks.

The men on the fringe of the Northampton first team will look to show why they should usurp those ahead of them in the pecking order.

And winning at Sandy Park on Saturday would be some statement.

"It will be a really good game," Hill said.

"Exeter have got good depth, a lot of homegrown players and although they'll have a few away with England, they'll still have a strong squad, the back row especially.

"We're putting out a strong team and we want to go down there and have a good impact.

"It will be a good challenge.

"The Anglo-Welsh is a chance to rest some players but it's another tournament for lads to get involved in and shine."

Despite being just 22, Hill has already played 58 times for Saints since joining from Yorkshire Carnegie, for whom he made his debut in 2014.

He shot onto the scene during his first season at Northampton and was called into England's Six Nations squad in 2016, making his first appearance in the win against Italy in Rome.

But injuries have hampered Hill of late, with a neck problem putting a spanner in the works last season.

And he said: "Last year, I didn't do myself any justice.

"I had a good run of form in my first year here and everything was going quite well.

"Last year, I was struggling with a few injuries, overthinking stuff and generally not playing as well as I could have.

"I've learned from my mistakes and now I'm really ready to go.

"I definitely feel like my scrummaging has improved, I'm learning and adapting faster and it comes with a little bit of experience.

"I've got games under my belt and learned from my mistakes."

Hill was unable to play in any of Saints' Champions Cup play-off matches at the end of last season, with his final match of the 2016/17 campaign coming against Saracens on April 16.

He explained: "I had an injection to reduce the swelling, but it's much better now.

"At the end of last year, I was basically dragging myself from game to game, trying to muster up some strength.

"I lost power on my left-hand side but it's much better now and I feel much stronger for it.

"I had a little bump in the road this season, but it wasn't anything too serious.

"It was just precautionary and wanting to rest before it got bad.

"Now I'm injury free I need to carry it into the games and get that momentum going."

Hill looks to Courtney Lawes for inspiration as the lock has recovered from a string of injury problems and is now in the form of his life.

"Courts has had six weeks here, four weeks there with injuries, but you can see how fantastic he's doing at the moment," Hill said.

"For me, it's the same. When I've got the momentum, it's easier to carry it on. It's the same with the team.

"When you lose that momentum, you fall off the horse and it's about trying to climb back on, piece myself together and crack on.

"It's tough to do, but it's vital you try to build momentum in your personal game."