Mark Hopley acknowledges young guns could give Jim Mallinder a selection dilemma
The young guns who helped Northampton's experimental side to an impressive 24-16 win at Newcastle in their Anglo-Welsh Cup opener could give the Jim Mallinder a welcome headache.
Saints have struggled for consistency so far this season in the Aviva Premiership and European Champions Cup and the emergence of fresh talent in an ultimately hard-fought success against a more experienced Newcastle side can only increase the selection options of director of rugby Mallinder.
Mark Hopley, Northampton's academy director, said after the success at rain-drenched Kingston Park: "Hopefully those younger guys are going to give the [head] coach some headaches.
"It's a brutal league, a brutal season, and you need players hungry and constantly putting the [head] coach under pressure. That's what we want. We want players desperate to play and I think you saw that today."
Victory was sealed with a 76th minute try by a 20-year-old making his sixth senior appearance for Saints, Scotland Under-20 centre Rory Hutchinson.
The visitors' other points came courtesy of two 22-year-olds, winger Tom Collins scoring a 38th minute try and fly-half Sam Olver nailing four penalties and a conversion.
Northampton had 19-year-old Lewis Ludlam making his debut at number eight and there were first senior starts for flanker Jordan Onojaife, Fiji lock Api Ratuniyarawa and hooker Charlie Clare.
There were also five debutants off the bench in the second half - prop James Fish, hooker Matt Beesley, Alex Moon, Devante Onojaife (Jordan's younger brother) and Argentinian Olympic Sevens star Juan Pablo Estelles.
Hopley added: "A lot of players out there today have been patient and waited a long time for an opportunity. It's brilliant to give them experience."
Newcastle rugby director Dean Richards was disappointed with the efforts of his side, who had only three penalties from All Blacks fly-half Mike Delany to show for their efforts untl a try by full-back and captain Alex Tait, converted by Delany,pulled them back to within three points of the visitors - only for Hutchinson to snuff out their comeback hopes.
Richards said: "There were some good things to come out of it. I thought our debutants, Josh Chisanga, Andrew Davidson and Tyrone Holmes acquitted themselves well - but at the same time we're disappointed."