Northampton Saints’ youngsters have a chance to put their name in the frame for first team action next season during the Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Series next month, according to senior academy coach Mark Hopley.
Franklin’s Gardens hosts the third Singha Premiership Rugby 7s night of the summer in exactly a month’s time, with Saints aiming to thrill the home crowd.
The club have a history of academy players using the 7s tournament as a springboard to the first team, with the likes of England flanker Teimana Harrison and World Rugby Under-20s Championship winning captain Harry Mallinder providing hope for this year’s crop.
And Hopley says his squad have the ability to emulate the duo and force their way into Jim Mallinder’s plans with strong displays in Group C against Gloucester Rugby, Saracens and Harlequins.
“We are still unsure of who will be in the team, but you can bet that whoever puts that shirt on will be raring to go and prepared to do their best for Northampton,” he said.
“To be the home side is very exciting. We have a bunch of players who have come to this academy to play for Northampton Saints in matches at Franklin’s Gardens. So to do that and get in front of that crowd is only going to be good.
“We have a great record of guys who play 7s going on into the first team, like Teimana Harrison or Harry Mallinder, and that only shows these guys what they can do.
“Some of them have the ability to be in the first team very soon, so this is a big night.
“We’re still in the strength and conditioning phase of pre-season, but when we get underway with the 7s stuff it will all be about core skills.
“Everyone needs to be good at running, passing, tackling, the full works. Whoever puts that shirt on will be ready and it will be a night full of fun, entertainment and good rugby.”
Aviva Premiership Rugby leads the way when it comes to club 7s, and after this year's Singha Premiership Rugby 7s Series kicks off in Cardiff, it will visit Exeter, Northampton and Newcastle before the showpiece final in Coventry on 7 August.
This summer is a big year for the sport, as it prepares to make its first Olympic appearance since 1924 and Hopley is excited to see it reach a global stage.
“7s is like the equivalent of Twenty20 cricket, so it has the potential to become a big sport,” he said.
“The Olympics will only help that too. You see teams like Spain which have focused solely on making it to the Games for two years now.
“Here it is getting bigger due to the Singha 7s. It’s going to be a big night in a month’s time, we’re expecting a lot of strong teams.
“Gloucester always chuck in some senior players, so they will be tough to beat.”
The Singha Premiership Rugby 7s kicks off on 22 July at Cardiff Arms Park with Group C in Northampton on 29 July and the Finals at the Ricoh Arena on Sunday 7 August. For tickets and details visit premiershiprugby.com/singha7stickets