Talented Tommy set to ensure Tigers' loss is Saints' gain

Saints full-back Tommy FreemanSaints full-back Tommy Freeman
Saints full-back Tommy Freeman | Getty
"Tommy Freeman is awesome."

That is the ringing endorsement from Saints star Harry Mallinder for his fellow full-back at Franklin's Gardens.

Tommy Freeman is one of the hottest prospects to emerge from the Saints Academy during the past year, and the 19-year-old is tipped to enjoy a big future.

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But had Leicester not passed up the opportunity, he could have been strutting his stuff for Tigers rather than Saints in the years to come.

In a recent Rugby Paper interview, Freeman explained: “I went to school in Suffolk, which was in Northampton’s catchment area, but played junior rugby for Wymondham RFC, which was Leicester’s.

"I trialled with both and got in at Leicester from age 13 to 16, but was released for being too small.

“They said they still wanted to keep their eye on me and suggested I should go to Melton College, but I said no to that and instead went to Moulton College in Northampton, where one of my old school teachers told me I’d have a better chance. It’s the best move I’ve made.

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“Saints picked me up in my second year in 2018 and I played pretty much every game for their Academy that season before they offered me a contract in February last year.

"I wasn’t expecting it so it was a great boost and I started training with the first team.”

Oxford-born Freeman caught the eye during pre-season and in Wanderers matches, with Mallinder recently telling this publication: "I think he's going to be a really good player and he looks good.

"I remember going through his pre-season games with him and he's a good player.

"He's a really nice lad and really versatile.

"We've got some good full-backs."

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And because Saints have got so many strong options at 15, Freeman certainly won't be getting ahead of himself.

He is currently up against Mallinder, England's George Furbank and Samoa's Ahsee Tuala in the scrap for starts.

But Freeman is loving being able to learn from such talented team-mates.

“It’s been unreal being in the senior environment,” Freeman said.

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“It’s very intense but they’re a good bunch of lads to be around and as full-backs we help each other out as a group, so it’s been exciting to see ‘Furbs’ making his England debut and inspiring all of us.

“I don’t have a mentor as such but it’s pretty easy to go to Harry and go through my games with him, and ‘Furbs’ is always there for a chat.

"Sam Vesty’s a great coach to all of us as well and he’s been a big part of George’s development, so I’ll always take his advice.

“The best thing he’s said to me is, ‘every day is a day to get better’ and that’s how I try to take things.

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"Currently I’m working hard on being that first defender when the ball’s kicked and then kicking into the corner myself – I’m trying to be that all-round player.”

Like so many of the players who have come through the Saints Academy of late, Freeman is capable of playing in more than one position.

"Early on through school I was a No.10, and then I played scrum-half, 12 and 13," he explained.

"Eventually I went to full-back and settled there, but having that versatility gives me an appreciation of different positions.”

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And for Saints fans who have yet to get a glimpse of Freeman, here is how he describes himself.

“I’m more of a running full-back so I love watching All Black Damian McKenzie," he said.

"He’s not the biggest guy and his style is probably the closest to me – and then Israel Folau is right up there as well in terms of his catching and running ability.”

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