New boy James confident he can make the step up at Saints

Tom James has joined Saints from Doncaster Knights (picture: John Ashton)Tom James has joined Saints from Doncaster Knights (picture: John Ashton)
Tom James has joined Saints from Doncaster Knights (picture: John Ashton) | other
Tom James got the inside track on life at Saints before agreeing to join the club - and now he can’t wait to show his worth in his impressive new surroundings.

James took time to speak to Doncaster Knights team-mates Sam Olver and Howard Packman, two Saints Academy graduates, about the setup at Franklin’s Gardens.

And the 26-year-old couldn’t be happier that he will now get a chance to sample it in the seasons to come.

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James agreed his switch to Saints back in January and it was announced by the club earlier this week.

He will be joining a young, English set of players competing for the No.9 shirt next season, with Alex Mitchell, Henry Taylor and Connor Tupai all ready to scrap for starts.

And James believes he has the ability to play a big part for his new club, even though he has never had a taste of life in England’s top flight before.

“I’m obviously very excited now it’s all finally been announced,” said James, who started his rugby journey at Loughborough University before moving to Bedford Blues and then Doncaster.

“I’m excited to be joining a club like Northampton.

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“Back in January was the time when it happened. I had a meeting with Sam (Vesty) and Chris (Boyd) and it went from there.

“I obviously loved looking around the club and the idea that Chris and Sam have for the club is obviously a very attractive one.

“The brand of rugby they’re playing at the moment is obviously very exciting and it’s something I wanted to be a part of.

“I’ve seen a fair few of their games this season and I did pay more attention to them when I knew I would be going to the club.

“I think their style fits my style.

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“This year and last year, they are obviously playing a much more expansive, exciting brand of rugby and they’re giving players the freedom to see what’s on rather than playing to a strict structure.

“It seems to be an enjoyable way to play rugby and I think it suits my style.

“I am confident.

“Obviously it’s always a step up for someone who hasn’t played at that level before, but it’s a challenge I’m looking forward to and I’m looking forward to proving myself at that level and showing I’m capable of playing there.”

On his conversations with Olver and Packman, James said: “I was playing with Sam at Doncaster.

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“Obviously he was at Northampton for quite a while and Howard Packman is at Doncaster as well this year.

“I did speak to both of them about it and they obviously loved their time at the club and had very nice things to say about it.”

James also knows one current Saint as fellow scrum-half Taylor was also at Loughborough.

And James believes his new club will have the perfect mix of players vying for the No.9 shirt at the Gardens.

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He said: “It’s three young English-qualified guys. Each bring a different thing to the table but hopefully we’ll complement each other well.

“Alex obviously did very, very well last season and has obviously been injured this year.

“Henry when he’s played this year has played really, really well so it will be a tough challenge but it’s one I’m looking forward to.

“I like to play with a lot of tempo and I do suit the style of expansive rugby, playing what I see.”

James has a taste for tries.

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He was Doncaster’s top scorer last season, notching 12 times, and he has added eight in 18 appearances during the current campaign.

“I always try to be in support whenever there’s a linebreak so that’s probably how I got quite a few of them,” the 6ft half-back said.

While it is often the case that Premiership players move to the Championship later in their careers, James is doing it the other way round.

He has served his apprenticeship in the second tier, and now he gets a shot at the big time.

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“I was never involved in any sort of Premiership Academy when I was younger,” said James, who racked up 72 appearances for Doncaster.

“I went to Loughborough to study Economics when I was 19 and was there for three years and I worked my way up into the first team there.

“I signed for Bedford Blues off the back of that for a year and then joined Doncaster for three years.

“I’ve really enjoyed it at Doncaster.

“I went there to test myself and get as much game time as possible.

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“In my first year, we finished mid-table and since then we’ve had two lower mid-table finishes.

“It was a great experience for me.”

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