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Sam Vesty: Playing 13 has made Tommy Freeman a better player

Northampton Saints head coach Sam Vesty believes exposing Tommy Freeman to outside centre this season has made him a more complete player. 

The England ace has been a key part of the Northampton backline this season, and has started to get more game time in midfield too.

Speaking to the media ahead of Northampton’s clash with Bath, Vesty said: “He’s got the skills to be able to do both or either to an incredibly high level. We’ve had a few injuries in midfield and it means he’s played there a lot, probably more than we expected him to; but he’s done a fantastic job there.”

He added: “I think being able to do a bit of both and do them to a really high standard is a very good achievement, and also a big feather in his cap.”

“I think you see a freer Tommy Freeman when he’s on the wing. He finds different ways of getting his hands on the ball. We don’t just want to pigeon hole him into either of them to be honest.”

With injuries to Rory Hutchinson and Burger Odendaal, Freeman has started four of Northampton’s past five games in the 13 shirt; including the narrow 20-17 loss to Leinster.

“It gives you a different perspective so you just see the game in a slightly different position,” Vesty continued.  “It gives you an appreciation of what that guy next to you has to deal with defensively, and how you can help him out if you’re on the wing or and vice versa. In attack too it’s absolutely the same. so yeah I think it gives you a good different perspective and an appreciation.”

Sam Vesty on the quality of Northampton’s back line

George Hendy-Credit: IMAGO

It’s not just Tommy Freeman that has excelled this season, with the whole of the backline firing on all cylinders.

Alex Mitchell, Fin Smith, George Furbank Fraser Dingwall and Freeman were all drafted into the England squad this Six Nations. Rory Hutchinson was also called into the Scotland squad.

Ollie Sleightholme, James Ramm and George Hendy have also become some of the best back three players in the Premiership too; and coach Vesty was full of praise for the unit as a whole.

“”As a unit, the way I look at the backs is ‘the whole is better than the sum of it’s parts’. They work so tightly, they communicate so well and they pass the ball into spaces so well that they’re such a good unit. They’re good individual players don’t get me wrong, but as a unit they’re brilliant.”

Vesty on Northampton’s catch-pass skills, and how he gets his team ‘touching balls’

Sam Vesty-Credit: IMAGO

People have praised Northampton for their catch-pass skills this season, and coach Vesty explained how this is ‘fundamental’ to their attack.

“We do a lot of catch pass,” he said. “Every day, the boys will have balls in their hands. I’m a big believer in touching as many balls as you can, If you want to be good at catching, you’ve got to catch balls, you’ve got to be doing those bits.”

“We try and make it fun, try and make it different. The boys catch lots of different types of balls, pass lots of different ways, and we play games, do drills, fun things, serious things. It’s just in a massive variety of different ways over the week. The guys get exposed to so much of that it just become so ingrained into what we do.”

“I believe that you want to be able to play the ball to space. If you want to be able to see space, you need to have the skills to be able to move the ball to that space under very high pressure. It’s absolutely fundamental.”