Saracens face Northampton Saints in the semi-final of the LV=Cup on Saturday, kick-off 12h30.
Two players who will both be starting for Mark McCall’s side are openside flanker Matt Hankin and full-back Ben Ransom, with the pair both up for the tournaments LV=Cup Breakthrough player of the season award after their impressive form for the club in the competition.
The award this year has taken more meaning since the last two winners of the award are now representing England in the Six Nations, Jonny May and Jack Nowell.
Henry Fraser spoke to the Saracens duo on the eve of Saturday’s crunch clash.
Are you enjoying your LV campaign so far?
BR: “Yes. It’s an exciting competition to play in, as a lot of the guys who haven’t been playing regularly get the chance to get out there in a Saracens shirt and play, which usually means everyone is on the top of their game to go out and perform. Obviously though we are in the knock out stages now, so there are no second chances and we need to go out there and get the win”.
MH: “The campaign so far has been a good experience, it’s a good competition for the youngsters at the club to get some good game time in a Saracens jersey. Personally I have enjoyed playing in the games and being involved – getting convincing wins along the way makes the experience a lot better. However tripping up against Northampton in the group stages was hard to take but pleased we can rise to the challenge again in the semi-final on Saturday”.
How does it feel to be short listed for the LV breakthrough player award?
BR: “It’s a great award to be nominated for, as most of the guys who I’m nominated with are some of the top young talent in the country so to be recognised along with them is a great achievement. I’m not really thinking about it though, as this week is all about prepping for Saints on Saturday, and more important is to get the win and get into the final”.
MH: “It was a bit of a surprise to be shortlisted, I only saw it on twitter after one training session. Me and Ollie Devoto we’re put forward as wild cards. I have seen all the nominees and there are some great young players who I am up against and of course Ben Ransom who is a team mate. It would be great to win but I am pleased to have been short listed and being noticed playing in these games. Trying to fish for votes through twitter but that’s all I can do for now. Hopefully a good performance on the week end can give me a bit more of a boost”.
Looking at previous winners who have gone on to represent England, does it give the award more meaning?
BR: “Definitely, seeing those guys who have won it now performing for England shows that playing for England is within reach. However, those guys didn’t get there because they won the award, they got there because of the hard work they put in not only to win the LV award but after to further progress as a player, and into the England squad”.
MH: “I think the award in itself is good enough, of course the players that win it are very good and established at a young age. The players who have won it in the past have taken their opportunities well and continued to press on and impress in the Premiership. It would mean a lot to win the award for me but then it just gets harder from there, especially pushing for full international honours”.
How do you feel about the semi-final this weekend?
BR: “It’s going to be a great occasion at Franklin’s Gardens, and hopefully we can put things right from our last encounter and go one better than last year and get to the final and win it!”
MH: “I’m excited to play in this semi-final, can’t wait to get out there. All the boys are also massively excited for the challenge on Saturday. Northampton will pose many threats and they exploited us in the earlier group stage but we have had a very strong training week and I feel we are more prepared and ready to go”.
Both players have had great seasons so far and fully deserve to be nominated for the award. This weekend will be a real test for them but a great chance to show their credentials.