Saints 'educator' Coles making his mark with England

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A special moment arrived at Twickenham last Sunday for the player the Saints squad call 'The Educator'.

Alex Coles took the latest step on his development path as he made his England debut against Argentina.

The result wasn't what the young forward wanted as England fell to a 30-29 defeat in the Autumn Nations Series opener.

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But Coles had certainly done enough to catch the eye, having started the game in the second row.

Alex Coles made his England debut against Argentina last weekendAlex Coles made his England debut against Argentina last weekend
Alex Coles made his England debut against Argentina last weekend

Saints director of rugby Phil Dowson was in attendance to watch his talented young charge take to the field.

And Dowson has been reflecting on the progress the 23-year-old has made at Saints.

"Colesy came into the Academy when I was coaching the Academy so I've watched his transition from the word go," Dowson said.

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"He was debating whether to go to Durham Uni or to stay and give professional rugby a go.

"His grandmother was very disappointed that he didn't go to Uni, but he is still studying.

"He is very intelligent, he applies himself incredibly well in terms of how hard he works, how he reviews and previews his development plan that he himself runs.

"He's incredibly determined and he wants everything in a hurry so he gets frustrated because he's not where he wants to be in terms of what he's doing in the gym, what's happening in training, what's happening in games, the collisions he's having.

"He always pushes for more and more and more.

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"His determination, discipline and drive shouldn't be underestimated because he's a tough character.

"On the flip side of that, he's a big character in the group, and they call him 'The Educator'.

"An element of his degree is studying philosophy and politics and other things so he is a bright lad and he gets a lot of abuse from the other players in a very friendly way.

"He's a big character and very funny.

"On the field, he's very driven and full on, and off the field he's a good character to have.

"He creates a lot of fun and humour in the club."

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Coles has clearly had a great mentor at Saints, with club legend and national team skipper Courtney Lawes showing him how to shine at lock and in the back row.

Dowson said: "You can see it with Courtney, who started off in the second row; traditionally people go forward as oppose to coming back out, but he fills that six role so well.

"What Colesy does so well is he has a natural read of the game so wherever the ball is, you'll generally find Colesy knocking around.

"There was a game recently where they chipped over the top and Colesy was waiting for the chip.

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"He's got a natural feel for the game where he gets himself in good positions.

"The work he's done on his lineout means he's capable of calling the lineout because he's been so assiduous in that space.

"The work he's done on his collision stuff - he was a bit gangly coming into the environment - and his carry technique has meant he's a big man going forward now.

"He adds to his game all the time and I don't think there's been any one who has been more detailed in his development that I've come across."

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Coles and Lawes give Saints huge selection options on matchdays as they are able to move between the second row and back row.

"The ability to flip between those two is gold really because that changes who you need to have on the bench," Dowson said.

"You can have two back rows on the bench and have Colesy covering second row, likewise in the back row if you wanted to go really heavy you can push him into that space later on.

"Both Colesy and Courtney give you that freedom to make decisions around how that looks mid-game."