The England U20 speedster talks basics, goals and the influence of his dad

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Northampton Saints wing Ollie Sleightholme

Date of birth 13 April 2000 Born Northampton Position Wing Club Saints Country England

How old were you when you took up rugby?

Six or seven, at my local club Northampton Old Scouts. It’s the same club Courtney Lawes and a few others started at.

Was rugby a natural path as your dad, Jon, played for England?

He never put pressure on me and didn’t take me to the club. A friend was playing and I said, “Dad, can I go?” He didn’t push it on me.

What other sports did you play?

Cricket and football, but as soon as I started rugby I fell in love with it and it took over. I just like how rugby is in general, the teamwork, a family outside your family.

What positions have you played?

I’ve played flanker and centre. Now I think I’ve found my place on the wing.

Who was your childhood hero?

I took a lot from my dad, even though I didn’t ever watch him play. Growing up, it was Shane Williams. I’m not the tallest, so he showed me from a young age that you didn’t have to be massive at the top end.

What are you trying to improve?

Everything. This is only my second year in a professional environment. It’s about getting the basics right. Look at the top players in the world – they’re not overly flamboyant, they are exceptional at the basics. That’s what makes them so good.

When did you link up with Saints?

I was first selected at 13 or 14. I was dropped at 16 and I played for East Midlands, but they picked me back up six months later.

What are your goals?

By this time next year, I’d like to have played more Premiership games than this year and to get more starts.

Who’s been the biggest influence on your career?

My dad. He doesn’t like to get too involved but he gives advice if I ask.

What do you do outside rugby?

I’m doing a PT (personal training) course that will lead to a strength and conditioning qualification, and then that can lead on to a degree. I always try to do something to take my mind off everything.

RW VERDICT: Sleightholme has represented England U18 and U20, and scored just 15 seconds into his Premiership debut against Wasps in late 2018. He is improving markedly with each game he gets under Saints boss Chris Boyd.

This article originally appeared in the July 2020 edition of Rugby World magazine.

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