Freeman refusing to get carried away after rapid rise at Saints
One Saints player who will particularly pleased to see Harlequins in the Gallagher Premiership final this weekend is Tommy Freeman.
The talented young full-back grew up watching Quins, idolising the likes of Nick Evans and Danny Care.
And now he’ll be watching on and hoping as his boyhood team - Freeman supported Quins because of where he grew up - take on Exeter Chiefs at Twickenham on Saturday.
But while he would undoubtedly be happy to see Harlequins prevail, Freeman would have loved it a lot more had Saints got the chance to claim the silverware this season.
Unfortunately, they fell short, finishing fifth in the Gallagher Premiership standings, 14 points behind fourth-placed Quins.
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And that means there is plenty of improvement needed to close the gap ahead of next season.
Saints though, appear to be on more of an upward curve than they were at the end of the 2019/20 campaign.
And Freeman is certainly someone who is on the up, having scooped his club’s breakthrough player of the season prize for 2020/21.
But he said: “I definitely don’t get carried away.
“The coaches keep me on the ground and keep developing me.
“I know there are times as a spectator you watch and see that little good moment in the game for me but there’s little things that can make me a lot better. The coaches drive that into me.
“They also give me praise when needed but they keep me pretty level-headed and it’s all about getting better.”
Freeman is a player who, at the age of just 20, appears to have it all.
His performance on the final day at Bath showed that, as not only did he make a couple of defensive contributions, he beat players for fun and was simply electric in attack.
Not that the Oxford-born back, who was released by Leicester Tigers as a teenager, allows himself to feel the job is done in terms of his personal progression.
“I was quite a lot smaller when I was at Leicester,” Freeman explained.
“I was a late bloomer and I probably didn’t hit puberty until about 16 so I got released from them to develop my physicality and grow into the game.
“It was a little bit on the physical side but my work-ons here now are not so much about the bigger picture, it’s about the micro-skills that people don’t see: how fast can you get to a breakdown, what’s the impact when you get there and things like that.
“I’m also working on high balls, working harder off the ball to get into a better position that I already am. Things like that will come with experience.
“Looking at space and identifying space is something I’ll pick up.
“When you play good teams - for example the second time I played against Wasps I knew roughly how they play and I could identify that - it comes with experience and you gain knowledge from that.”
Ability is one thing, being able to make it count on match-day is another.
Watching Freeman, it appears that he is totally unfazed by any opposition.
But he said: “I’m happy I look like that because I can tell you inside it’s not the same.
“I’m nervous before every game and the whole looking unfazed thing comes from being fazed.
“I went through that stage of being fazed during the whole Covid thing when we were getting a few losses.
“Mentally I probably wasn’t in the right space because I knew what to do but it was ‘wow, this is the big stuff’.
“But if I make sure I know everything, I’m more relaxed going into games.
“I know everyone makes mistakes and it’s a team sport so you’re always trying to do your best for the team.
“It’s about not beating yourself up over things, getting on with the next thing and keep moving forward.
“If a negative is backed up with a positive, it’s a lot better than being frustrated with yourself and continually backing the negatives up. That’s where I keep my head.”
Freeman embodies the way Saints want to play, allowing their skills to come to the fore.
And he said: “We know our DNA, we know what we can do.
“We play to a structure and it’s not all joue, playing wide and playing fancy rugby.
“We play our game and those bits come within it. It’s about the individual flair of some boys and playing off each other that makes it happen.
“It’s not freedom to play, we still stay in our structure but if you back yourself and you thing you can add something different, you do it.
“The coaches definitely encourage us to do it - they wouldn’t take that out of our game.
“The coaches are 100 per cent go for it, back yourself.
“It’s all about being bold and demonstrating your skills when you can.”
That is certainly something Harlequins have done this season, and it has taken them to the Premiership final.
“I was a 10 growing up so I loved Nick Evans because I liked Quins a lot back in the day,” Freeman explains, discussing his Quins connection.
“Nick Evans was a big one for me, and Danny Care. The flair came from Danny Care.
“They were the main players growing up who I took to.”
Evans, now a coach, and Care, still playing, will hope to lead Harlequins to glory this weekend.
And Freeman will look to do the same for Saints next season.