The Big Interview: Rory Hutchinson on Northampton, new contracts and the World Cup
Rory Hutchinson started this season with his job on the line and a contract winding down but he’s finishing with the title in his sights and the World Cup on the horizon.
The Scottish centre has been a revelation in Northampton Saints’ midfield, leading to a Land Rover Discovery of the Season nomination and a surprising place in Gregor Townsend’s 42-man training squad.
The 23-year-old is without doubt a left-wing choice. He is uncapped at senior level and before Christmas was hardly in the Saints’ plans but, such is his form, Townsend said he was impossible to leave out and he has been picked over veterans such as Alex Dunbar – a Scotland starter as recently as the autumn.
As meteoric rises go, Hutchinson’s is pretty sharp. He missed almost all of the 2017-18 campaign with injury, only returning at the end for a short loan spell with Bedford Blues.
A tear in his posterior cruciate ligament on the eve of the season was another set-back and the centre admits a place in the Saints’ team was almost a distant dream – let alone Scotland’s.
“The World Cup was not even in my mind, I thought that was completely out of the window. I was fighting for a job and a contract at Northampton,” he said.
⭐️ #GallagherPrem star officially unearthed⭐️
A meteoric rise for @RoryJHutchinson 🚀
Graceful runner 😯
14 clean breaks 😦
29 Defenders beaten 😧
Scotland call-up 😲
Discovery of the year nominee 🤗
That’s one hell of a season for @SaintsRugby ✨
Destined for big things? pic.twitter.com/1AwfQLScC2
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) 15 May 2019
“Last summer I said I was going to try my best but the injury came and I was not back until Christmas time. I thought in my head, I had left it too late but hard work pays off.
“When I got back from injury, I was hoping I could string three or four games together by the end of this season and then prey that would be enough for a deal.
“That was my plan. But it has been completely different. A lot of things have changed in the last few month and I have enjoyed the ride.
“I think I would be lying if I said I had not thought about it [the World Cup] but we have a big summer ahead and I can’t get too carried away.”
It would be understandable if Hutchinson did. Aside from his international breakthrough, things are going well at Franklin’s Gardens too.
Saturday will see Northampton travel to Exeter Chiefs knowing a win would cement a first Gallagher Premiership Rugby semi-final since 2015, while on Wednesday he will learn if his breakout season will be enough to land an individual gong.
Tom Curry, Joe Simmonds, Alex Dombrandt, Joe Cokanasiga and Ollie Thorley are also up for the prize but only Dombrandt can match Hutchinson as a bolt from the blue.
His emergence has been key in the Saints’ semi-final charge, which has seen them emerge from a cluster of sides in the middle to overhaul a stuttering Harlequins in Chris Boyd’s first season in charge – a far cry from a year ago when they were in danger of slipping out of the top tier.
Should international recognition follow next for the centre? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/2T3FrFojgB
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) 6 March 2019
“Jim [Mallinder] did an excellent job and brought history here but I think it needed a freshness to it. Sometimes things need to change and it was the time,” he added.
“We are fighting for a top four place and so hopefully there are three more games. Everyone knew something had to change, whether that was the coaching or the bonding between us all. We dealt with it well and we are a very close-knit team.
“It is a tough sport and a tough league and anyone can win on any day. What sets people apart sometimes is belief and Chris [Boyd] mentioned it the other day.
“We like to look at ourselves as one of the top clubs. We have the history and believe we should be playing Leinster and Munster every year in the Champions Cup and not shovel snow off the runway like we did in Romania this season.
“You want to be fighting for the top and competing for the top. We always said why can’t we get back to the semi-finals. We have grinded so hard, so why not? We deserve to be in the top four.”
Beat an already-qualified Exeter and they will be. The Chiefs may rest some star names and there is every chance this could be a dress rehearsal for the following week’s semi-final.
“There is a reason they are top of the league right now,” Hutchinson added.
“They are an unbelievable team with big, heavy forwards and dangerous backs. We have to respect that. But we are up for the fight.”
Rory Hutchinson has been shortlisted for the 2018/19 Land Rover Discovery of the Season award. Land Rover is the official vehicle partner of Premiership Rugby. Follow @LandRoverRugby