Smith feels he has improved since making switch to Saints

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Robbie Smith believes he has become a much better player since joining Saints from Newcastle Falcons last summer.

The 24-year-old hooker has played 11 times for the black, green and gold, starting three of those games.

He is competing with the likes of Sam Matavesi and Mike Haywood for starts.

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And when asked whether he felt moving to cinch Stadium and Franklin's Gardens has helped him improve his game, Smith said: "Yes, 100 per cent.

Robbie SmithRobbie Smith
Robbie Smith

"My understanding of the game has improved under guys like (Saints head coach Sam) Vesty.

"With the way Saints want to play, it's all about that high tempo and finding the space.

"I've definitely found my skill level has had to improve and I've been working loads on my lineout throwing.

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"I definitely think the amount of time the coaches put into you individually and how much other players around you are doing it themselves really makes you want to be a better player.

"You see the amount of guys who are getting called up for international camps and it just motivates you.

"It's an unbelievable environment and I'm loving it."

Smith has been part of some big European games of late, starting at La Rochelle last month before coming off the bench at Munster last Saturday.

And the Dumfries-born forward said: "It's class - I'm loving it.

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"I've played some decent games now, getting my first chances at Champions Cup rugby.

"Every week I'm trying to get better and better.

"There are obviously some world class players around me so I'm trying to learn as much as I can and pick up game time every week.

"I've been really happy with how much I've played so far, but I want to keep playing and trying to get up the pecking order as much as I can.

"I never really came in thinking about how much I was going to play - I just came in wanting to be as competitive as I could be to get as many games as I could in the hooker shirt, whether that's starting or on the bench.

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"I want to turn myself into the type of player that Saints have in their armoury because they play some class rugby and I wanted to make myself better as a rugby player.

"I'm happy with how much game time I've been getting and you always want to play as many games as you can."

Smith will have some extra competition next season as Saints have recruited England hooker Curtis Langdon, who will join from Montpellier this summer.

"I think I played against him at Under-20s and he's a good player," Smith said.

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"I think he's the year above me so he'll be really good competition.

"Having guys coming into that space who have got a desire similar to mine can only be a good thing.

"You want to be better than them and push on but they are only going to make you better so it's exciting to have someone else coming in to push me.

"We've already got a really competitive group here already so I'm excited for that to be honest."

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The immediate focus for Smith is taking on La Rochelle again on Saturday.

Saints know that a win could give them a chance of dropping into the Challenge Cup rather than bowing out of Europe completely.

And Smith said: "It's obviously a massive challenge but there's been a massive buzz at training and the lads are really keen to right some wrongs from what we had last time against them.

"We had a pretty poor first half against them over there and we didn't play great.

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"In the second half, we showed glimpses but it still wasn't anywhere near where we can be with the talent in this group.

"There's just a real buzz because although the Champions Cup qualification has gone, there's still a chance to make it into the Challenge Cup.

"Hopefully we can put in a good performance to get a buzz back around us with some big games coming in the Premiership."