Reliable Waller steps up for Saints again as injuries alter team selection plan

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While the sight of Alex Waller wearing the Saints No.1 shirt is never a surprise, it wasn’t actually part of the plan for him to put it on so soon this year.

But with injuries biting Saints during pre-season, Waller has been thrust into action.

He and Paul Hill have answered the prop call with the black, green and gold struggling for availability.

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Saints have kept the majority of their first-team squad on ice during the build-up to the new Gallagher Premiership campaign, not wanting to overwork them too early.

Alex Waller started for Saints at Ealing Trailfinders on Sunday (picture: Adam Gumbs)Alex Waller started for Saints at Ealing Trailfinders on Sunday (picture: Adam Gumbs)
Alex Waller started for Saints at Ealing Trailfinders on Sunday (picture: Adam Gumbs)

They still have four more Premiership Rugby Cup matches to play before the big league opener at Sale Sharks on October 15.

And when you consider the club only traditionally plays a maximum of three pre-season matches before the Premiership begins, you can see the reason why the coaches have been keen to give their league performers as much preparation time as possible.

But with Manny Iyogun on the way back from an Achilles injury and new signing Tarek Haffar sidelined due to an injury of his own, Waller and summer recruit Elliot Millar Mills have been asked to hold down the loosehead position.

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It meant Waller started against the Barbarians in the pre-season clash before also lining up against Ealing Trailfinders in the cup curtain raiser last Sunday.

But the 33-year-old took it all in his stride and was still in typically good spirits despite the largely youthful Saints side suffering a 48-22 defeat at Vallis Way.

“I don't think it was the plan that myself and the coaches worked out, but unfortunately people got knocks and that's the way rugby goes,” Waller said. “Things come up and it's my job at the end of the day.

"I love playing so I'll get out there with these lads and if I can impart a little bit of experience throughout this then happy days, but they probably just think it's the old bloke talking rubbish about the good old days.

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"You look at the likes of Craig Wright, making his debut, and he's a brilliant young talent coming through. It will have been really good for him to play against this standard of opposition.

"Ealing have got aspirations to come into the Premiership and they've shown they can mix it so it's good for our lads to play against them even though they got the loss on their debut.”

Waller may have played more than expected in the past two weeks, but he isn’t pushing for any time off.

"It's only two games - I'm not that old!,” he said, laughing.

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"We've got Manny, Ethan (Waller), Tarek, Luke Green all in the mix so we've got a good stable of looseheads.

"When everyone's fit, it will be happy days, but unfortunately at the moment it's only me and 'Killer' (Millar Mills).

"We're trudging along and it's onto the next one.”

Reflecting on the defeat at Ealing, Waller said: “It was red hot out there and it was disappointing.

“It's still early in the season and we've still got a lot to work on - we highlighted some areas after that game.

“We know we need to start matches better, to be honest.

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“You never like to lose but there's plenty to work on and we're only at game one of the cup so there's plenty of time before we play Sale in the Premiership.

“If you look at the squad, it's still a very young squad - there were a lot of lads making their competitive debut for the club on Sunday.

“It will be great experience for them but unfortunately you've got to go through it.

“Unfortunately I've been through a few of these games in my time as well so I can add this one to it.

“There's plenty to work on, we never want to lose but we'll fire into Cambridge and then the next one after that.”

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