James still on an upward trajectory at Saints

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Tom James feels he has plenty more to give at Saints as he continues to make progress as a top-level scrum-half.

The 28-year-old arrived in Northampton from Championship outfit Doncaster Knights in 2020 and he has gone on to become the main competitor for Alex Mitchell's No.9 shirt.

James has scored nine tries in 42 appearances for Saints, with just 13 of those matches being starts.

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And when asked how much he feels his game has improved since he joined from Doncaster, he said: "Quite a lot.

Tom JamesTom James
Tom James

"I feel like the way Northampton play, I've had to improve on a few things.

"Speaking to Sam Vesty, the way we want our nines to be is full of tempo, getting the ball off the floor as quickly as possible.

"We want to be a threat around fringes but also put other people into space.

"I feel I'm still improving.

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"I was fairly late to this level of rugby and I feel like every week is a chance to improve.

"I still feel like my game is definitely progressing."

James has made three appearances from the bench this season with Mitchell keeping hold of the starting spot.

Callum Braley has been captaining the Premiership Rugby Cup team, so James has yet to get a go from the off.

But he is happy to play his part, whatever task he is given in the squad.

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"I'm just trying to use whatever role I'm given to the best of my ability," James said. "If it's as an impact player from the bench then so be it.

"Sometimes it's frustrating not to get too much game time especially when it's close games and you maybe don't change your half-backs as much as you could.

"But I'm enjoying it, I'm enjoying trying to make an impact and if that's my role then I'm going to try to do it to the best of my ability."

Would James rather be a starter in the Premiership Rugby Cup or a bench player in the Gallagher Premiership?

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"It's a funny one because obviously you want to play as much rugby as you can but it's all part of it because your role changes through the season," he said.

"You just have to make sure whatever opportunity you're getting on the pitch, you are prepared the best you can."

With Saints currently playing midweek matches in the cup, it brings back memories of Covid times when the squad was split into two to cope with the busy Premiership backlog.

"It is strange," James said.

"Obviously the schedule has been a bit different recently with training times being different.

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"It's a lot of rugby and it's positive that the whole squad is playing at the moment.

"The midweek games are also a good chance to build momentum and it's a chance to do that by winning.

"It was a weird time when we split those teams during Covid and the training was fairly similar with one team training one day and the other the next.

"We do take every chance to make sure we're training against each other but midweek games dictate that some guys are in one day and others the next."

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Next up for Saints' first-choice 23 is a trip to Wasps for a Premiership game on Sunday.

Phil Dowson's side have lost three of their opening four league games.

And James said: "We don't want to say there's some pressure on but we do need a win.

"We need to start building some momentum and it's a really good opportunity to do that this weekend.

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"It's a fairly similar side to Quins in the way they want to play.

"Obviously the game plan for us doesn't really change and we know when we're at 100 per cent and we're putting our game on the pitch, we're going to cause teams a lot of problems.

"We're really confident about it, but it's about trying to do it for 80 minutes and not just in patches.

"Wasps are very dangerous on the counter and they are willing to play from anywhere, which they've showed recently with some of the tries they've scored.

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"They've got a lot of dangerous players so, like Quins, it's a team you can't switch off at all against.

"The test this weekend is whether we can do it for 80 minutes against a team who are dangerous from anywhere."

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