The big interview: Saints prospect Henry Pollock talks to Tom Vickers

Rarely, if ever before, has a player emerged from the Saints Academy accompanied by such anticipation.
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But Henry Pollock is desperate to take all of the expectation placed on his young shoulders in his stride.

The flanker looks to be something of a generational talent, having captained England Under-18s and having already announced himself in the black, green and gold first team.

Pollock was skipper of Saints’ Under-18s side that reached the 2023 Academy League final.

Henry Pollock (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)Henry Pollock (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Henry Pollock (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

And the 18-year-old has already made four appearances for the Saints first team, all of those in the Premiership Rugby Cup.

Pollock signed his first professional contract at the club earlier this year and he has started all three games since the summer break ended.

So how does he handle the fact people are already speaking so highly of him?

"You've just got to put it to one side because you don't want to get too ahead of yourself," Pollock said.

Henry Pollock impressed for Saints in the Premiership Rugby Cup last season (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)Henry Pollock impressed for Saints in the Premiership Rugby Cup last season (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Henry Pollock impressed for Saints in the Premiership Rugby Cup last season (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

"The worst thing you can do is get too ahead of yourself so, for me, it's about staying grounded and working on the basics really well every day.

"You need to play well, learn all the moves and your opportunities will come.

"I'm loving the experiences here and every day I wake up in the morning and look forward to getting my boots on.

"The main thing is keeping my head nice and low and getting better every single day."

Pollock was part of Saints’ Academy setup since his Under-13 season, when he was picked up following standout performances for Buckingham RUFC and Beachborough Prep School.

The flanker moved to Stowe School and has since gone from strength to strength in black, green and gold.

"I'm absolutely loving it!" he said.

"It's been a dream of mine to be a professional and to do it at Saints is brilliant because I used to come here as a little boy and watch them run out.

"I'm just taking it day by day and I'm like a sponge absorbing all the information and doing everything I can to be better.

"Everyone here has been really welcoming and made me feel part of the group since day one so that's been special."

So who were Pollock's heroes growing up as a Saints supporter?

"Obviously the (Courtney) Lawes, the Teimana Harrisons - the strength in the back row they used to have was unbelievable," he said.

"Obviously Lawes is still playing now so as a little boy coming here and watching them, it makes you want to do it yourself.

"Teimana Harrison was an unbelievable ball carrier. He never used to be on the back foot and that's something I want to have in my game, that front foot dominance.

"To be playing where he was is massive and it gives you a reality check that you're still a little boy, only 18 years old, and it's good."

Pollock's younger days saw him strut his stuff at a nine before he was eventually moved to seven.

"I started my journey at Banbury, I was there for a couple of years and then went to Buckingham, which is where my rugby really took off," he explained.

"I started at nine funnily enough - I wasn't the biggest lad and I'm still not now.

"But I used to get on the wrong side of the ref so one of the coaches was like 'you've got a big mouth, we'll put you at seven' and then I haven't really moved since then.

"I then went to Stowe, which was amazing and it gave me so much opportunity.

"Four boys (Will Plessis, Noah Cowan, Archie McParland and Ewan Baker) in my year got professional contracts, which is pretty unheard of, so it was massive having those lads around you every day, pushing you to be better.

"Then I've come into the Saints environment and I'm absolutely loving it."

Pollock and scrum-half McParland have been adding to their reputations during recent performances, though they have both also caught the eye for their hairstyles.

Pollock has been forced to shave off his flowing blonde hair, while McParland has gone bleach blonde with his new style.

"I think it's the girlfriend effect," Pollock said of McParland. "His girlfriend has been pushing him to get that haircut, and it's whatever rocks his boat.

"I'm not a fan of it personally - I think it's pretty out there, but if he likes it, fair enough.

"All the first years had to get their head shaved so my haircut wasn't really my choice.

"Hopefully I can grow that big blonde flock out. I'll definitely grow it back.

"I don't mind the buzzcut but I'm definitely missing the long, flowing hair."

Pollock's flowing hair was on full show in his Academy highlights reel, in which he scored some truly spectacular tries that a back, never mind a seven, would be proud of.

He always looked a certainty to be handed a pro deal at Saints, and so it proved.

"They pulled us into the changing room at Stowe and told me they were going to sign me," Pollock said.

"It was kind of surreal because you don't really think about it that much but then when the signing day comes, it all becomes reality and it's like 'wow, this is actually happening'.

"The lads we've got this year are such good boys and we're absolutely loving it."

Pollock has built his experience by playing for England Under-18s, earning the forward of the tournament award after the tour of South Africa last year.

"That was really good because I went to South Africa last summer as a 17-year-old and that's where I went from stride to stride," he said.

"I had a chat with Jon Pendlebury and he told me I was captain, which was massive for me. It made me more of a leader and gave me that role I could take into every day.

"Recently, we went to Ireland and that was amazing to be in the professional environment and being around rugby every day helped me when I came into the full-time role at Saints because I'd been in that environment.

"I absolutely loved it, the lads were amazing and the experience I had was something I'll never forget."

Pollock is now fully ensconced in life at Saints, working on honing his obvious skills day in, day out.

So what areas in particular is he looking to sharpen up?

"The breakdown is a massive thing and that has been the key thing during pre-season, thinking about how I can make that better and make my decisions better," he said.

"Also, my ball carrying, I want to make that better and get some experience in that.

"Also, the lineout. If I can be a lineout option, that's a great thing.

"It's about making my game more rounded so I can do a number of things well.

"I'm working on everything and for 10, 15 minutes after sessions I do a bit extra."

Though Pollock is currently a big part of the Premiership Rugby Cup side, he is likely to get chances to perfect his game on loan this season.

And he said: "This year, we're going to be loaned out because of our age and the strength we have in the first team.

"When that opportunity comes, it will be massive and I've just got to make sure that when I go out on loan I play at my standard and don't drop to the standard of the loan club.

"I need to push my standard and also just enjoy it."

But Pollock will undoubtedly benefit from training at Saints, with the likes of Lewis Ludlam and new signing Tom Pearson to learn from.

"They are great and Pearson has been really helpful, giving me tips here and there," Pollock said.

"He's really settled in and to have that kind of experience is massive."

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