Coles set to make his mark in big season at Saints

Saints lock Alex Coles
Saints lock Alex Coles

After already racking up three times as many starts as he did last season, Alex Coles is looking forward to what he hopes will be a big breakthrough campaign at Saints.

The lock, who was with England Under-20s at the World Rugby U20 Championship during the summer, is starting to make a name for himself after emerging from the Academy at Franklin's Gardens.

He has started three of the four matches during 2019/20, including earning a place in the second row for last Saturday's superb 31-22 success at Leicester Tigers.

And with Courtney Lawes still away and Api Ratuniyarawa not back in Northampton until next week, Coles is desperate to keep making hay while the sun shines.

"I've been loving my rugby, being involved," Coles said.

"I just hope I've been showing Boydy (Saints boss Chris Boyd) and the coaches that I can do a good job for them and repay their faith in me.

"I've been loving playing as much as I have been.

"I'm not eligible for the England Under-20s this year, which in some ways is a shame but in other ways I can focus fully on Northampton and be here all year.

"Hopefully I can get as many games as possible.

"I'm really focused on trying to earn a place in the team.

"It's a good opportunity for me with Courtney and Api away.

"Hopefully I'll be on the teamsheet later in the season, too."

Having only just turned 20, the future appears so bright for Cambridge-born Coles.

He is highly rated at Saints, and last weekend's mature and influential display against Tigers was another example of why.

"It was my first game at Welford Road, I've not played there in any other competition, so to have one game, one win is really special," Coles said.

"If you look at the history of the club, it's pretty unusual to get a win at Welford Road in your first game, and as a team to get three in a row it's really good.

"A few of the fans came up after and told the team how much it meant to beat Tigers.

"We were really pleased to do that."

But the tasks are only going to get tougher, with one of the toughest of them all lying in wait at Allianz Park this weekend.

"Saracens are obviously a really good team and in terms of a game to start the Premiership with, there aren't many tougher," Coles said.

"We're really excited about the challenge and as a group we're pretty ready for it.

"You can't go there and think they're already five or 10 points up.

"You've got to think you can beat them and you've got to relish the challenge."

Coles has been working hard on his strength during the summer and is savouring the words of wisdom given to him by the Saints coaches.

"They're a really good bunch of coaches and their analysis is exceptional," he said.

"One of the things I've been working on is based around my collision work.

"I've been grafting pretty hard in the gym, trying to put on a few kilos to make sure I'm more dominant in the tackle and the carry.

"In terms of lineout as well, it's about being a calling option.

"Those are my big work-ons."

As templates go, Coles couldn't have a much better one than fellow Saints second row forward Courtney Lawes, another product of the Northampton Academy.

"I remember watching him back when I was much younger and thinking it's pretty awesome to be a second row and play like he does," Coles said.

"I love how mobile and effective he is around the pitch.

"I'm trying to take inspiration from him and when he's at the club I take knowledge from him."