'A Thistle Amongst Roses' - Northampton's Rory Hutchinson on Scotland Call-Up & The Seven Saints in England Squad - Ruck

‘A Thistle Amongst Roses’ – Northampton’s Rory Hutchinson on Scotland Call-Up & The Seven Saints in England Squad

Northampton Saints have recently set a new bench-mark, for readying players for test match rugby. The Saints have provided seven players for Steve Borthwick’s England squad, which stands as the most from any one Premiership club for the 2024 Six Nations.

Alex Coles, Fraser Dingwall, Tommy Freeman, George Furbank, Alex Mitchell, Fin Smith and Tom Pearson have all received call-ups, and join the England training camp ahead of their opening match against Italy on February 2nd. Along with the impressive accolades of the England candidates, the Saints have also had a player called up for Scotland duty, in the form of centre Rory Hutchinson.

Rory Hutchinson of Northampton Saints during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Semi Final Match between Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on 11 June. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

Hutchinson has eight Scotland caps to his name, yet has not featured for Gregor Townsend’s side since the 2022 Summer tour of Argentina. Throughout the battles against Los Pumas, Hutchinson featured as a fullback, yet has been nailed to the number 12 jersey for the majority of his time at Franklin’s Gardens. Hutchinson is eager to return to the international fray, and admitted how he would happily take up the full-back mantle following Stuart Hogg’s international retirement.

“It was great to get the call, to be selected back into the squad. So I’m really looking forward to joining up with the lads. I haven’t seen some of them for a while, since Argentina so yeah, really looking forward to that, I think, it’s a really strong squad, there’s lots of competition. So, high expectations for the Six Nations and really looking forward to starting a campaign.”

“Wherever I get asked to play, I’m more than happy to do it. For me, I think I’m doing alright at centre down in Northampton. So I’d like to try and push that on going up into camp, so I’m enjoying centre at the moment. But if I’m needed to do a job elsewhere, then it’s not going to be a no.”

A Scottish thistle amongst a bunch of English roses, Hutchinson could well line-up against his Northampton teammates when the two nations collide at Murrayfield on February 24th. Despite the age-old rivalry within any Anglo-Scottish fixture, Hutchinson admitted how there has been no pre-Six Nations banter, between himself and his England-selected colleagues. There is a mutual level of respect and support within the Saints camp, which Hutchinson believes has helped the Saints reach the top of the Premiership, and remain unbeaten so far in the Champions Cup.

Rory Hutchinson of Northampton Saints breaks through the tackle of George Ford of Leicester Tigers during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Semi Final Match between Leicester Tigers and Northampton Saints at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on 11 June. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

“No, I’m just really happy for the boys. I think it just shows when the club does well, it really pushes the boys cases to get into the other international setups, and just saying to the lads, I really stoked for them to see, you know, seven of those boys going into the England camp is brilliant. So I think it just shows, we’re doing well in the league doing well in Europe. So I think it’s just really good for them, and they they deserve to be in it.”

“I think if you’ve seen over past years, when Saracens when winning, Europe’s (Champions Cups) and Premierships, a lot of their players were involved in England setup, and likewise, when Leicester won (the Premiership) a few years ago, so I think it definitely helps. Definitely helps push their case, if you know, teams are winning and doing well, you’d like to think the players are doing well. So really happy for those boys. You know, I wish them all the best going into camp.”

Rory Hutchinson of Northampton Saints during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Semi Final Match between Saracens and Northampton Saints at Stonex Stadium on 13 May 2023. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

“It’s great. I think we’ve all clicked together really well, we all know how each other work. Both on and off the field we’re a really tight knit group. I think it’s just clicked for us at the moment, and off the back of these performances, it shows why so many of the those lads have been called up to their representative camp, so I’m really delighted for them and I wish them all the best, and I hope they get their shot.”

“I think George (Furbank) has been great, he’s been a great leader. He’s playing some of his best rugby at the moment, Fin (Smith), as well. (Tommy) Freeman, we’ve always known that he can do that, so it’s great to see him getting recognised for it. And ‘Dingers’ (Fraser Dingwall) has been great. Won’t give ‘Mitch’ (Alex Mitchell) compliments because he gets too many! But it’s been great. Tom Pearson’s come from a club that no longer exists (London Irish) and for him to settle in here and play his role, he’s done really well.”

Fin Smith of Northampton Saints kicks for the posts during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby match between Northampton Saints and Exeter Chiefs at Franklins Gardens, Northampton on 12 November 2023. – PHOTO: Patrick Khachfe/PPAUK

Hutchinson then donned his proverbial tartan, and turned his attention to Scotland’s goals for the 2024 Six Nations. Gregor Townsend’s men were plunged into the ‘Pool of Death’ for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, and sunk to third place for an early exit. The bigger fish of Ireland and back-to-back World Champions South Africa would progress through, leaving fans of Scottish rugby frustrated with the result.

Hutchinson missed the grade for the Rugby World Cup, and could only watch on as his side failed to progress out of the pool. However, after stunning performances for the Saints the centre is back in the fold, and wants to march his countrymen on to victories, just as he’s done for his East Midland’s club. Speaking on his World Cup omission and Six Nations goals, Hutchinson also discussed his excitement to play outside Scotland’s fabled fly half when he joins up with the national team;

Finn Russell of Bath Rugby during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Match between Bath Rugby and Newcastle Falcons at the Recreation Ground on 14 October 2023. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

“Someone like Finn Russell, I think he’ll do well wherever he goes, You know, he’s an exceptional player. He had a great stint in Scotland, then France, and he’s hit the ground running in Bath, Bath are doing really well. I’m sure he wouldn’t take too much credit for it, but he’s a world class player. So, yeah, looking forward to joining up with those boys in camp.”

“It’s always disappointing (missing a RWC squad), I missed out four years ago (2019 Rugby World Cup), wasn’t involved at all last summer. So for me, you know, there’s a lot of ups and downs in rugby. But it’s about what comes next really, and for me, it’s the game at the weekend on the next training session. So for me, it’s just about trying to get the best bit of me out there really,

Northampton Saints player Rory Hutchinson attacking during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Match between Sale Sharks and Northampton Saints at the AJ Bell Stadium on 15th October. Photo: Steve Bond/PPAUK

“I think it’s a really exciting squad. There’s loads of competition, some new faces and some experienced players as well. So I think it is a really good squad. They don’t want excuses for the Pool stuff they were disappointed not to get out of there. But, you know, we want to compete with the best teams in the world. So we’re really looking forward to this Six Nations campaign.”

Returning his focus on the weekend ahead, and Northampton Saints travel over to Ireland for a Champions Cup fun-in with Munster. The stage is set for a tantalising clash at Thomond Park, yet the pressure has been slightly eased on Northampton with a spot already secured in the Last 16. However, the importance of a home fixture for the knock-out stage can not be understated, with European rugby set to return to cinch Stadium should the Saints secure a win over the reigning United Rugby Championship holders.

Dejection for Tadhg Beirne, Captain of Munster Rugby after the Investec Champions Cup match between Exeter Chiefs and Munster at Sandy Park, Exeter on 17th Dec 2023. Photo: Phil Mingo/PPAUK

Northampton’s last action in the Champions Cup, was a 61-14 dismantling of Aviron Bayonnais and Hutchinson believed that the French side were not up to their best standards. The 27-year-old will gladly take the winning momentum forward, along with the comeback victory against Exeter Chiefs from a fortnight ago. The Saints battled back from a 26-0 deficit to win 42-36, which has renewed their confidence ahead of tomorrow battle against the Irish province.

“I think we came out of box firing (against Bayonne). I think they all were just a little bit cold. You know, if we played them again, I’m sure they’d much better performance. I like to think, that they would think that.”

Rory Hutchinson of Northampton Saints during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Match between Harlequins and Northampton Saints on the third weekend of the Return to Rugby campaign as rugby continues after COVID 19 lockdown at Twickenham Stoop on 30 Aug. Photo: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK/Gallagher

“We’re playing an exciting brand of rugby at the moment. When we were 26 points down at Exeter, we’d managed to turn that around and still trust the process. I think it’s all about having a bit of belief, because a lot of people would have thought ’26 points down in 20 minutes, it’s done and dusted’. But we stick to our processes, and it’s about putting that 80 minute performance on the field.”