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Alex Waller was spurred on by England omissions

Alex WallerSnubbed by England through the age-groups, Alex Waller’s chance to pull on the Red Rose jersey was a long time coming.

But after his Saxons bow in defeat against the Irish Wolfhounds last weekend, the Northampton loosehead is now very much on England’s radar.

And the 23-year-old, who played the first hour at Kingsholm, admits that his eventual breakthrough is thanks to his previous omissions rather than in spite of them.

“The Midlands was as far as I got in terms of representative rugby as a youngster and then I got picked up by Northampton,” he said.

“Obviously, the England U18s and U20s didn’t come and it was a bit disappointing but looking back now I probably wasn’t good enough.

“But I’ve worked on that and hopefully fixed it. Being here now is a great privilege and something I’m proud of.

“Graham Rowntree rung me when the squads were getting announced and said I’d probably be involved with Matt Mullan going up into the senior squad.

“Obviously that was a great confidence boost and I’m very excited to be involved and to get the chance to prove myself on the Saxons stage.

“The dream for anyone is to play for their country and hopefully this a stepping stone towards doing that.”

The departure of man-mountain Soane Tonga’uiha from Franklin’s Gardens this summer was always going to leave a sizeable hole at No.1.

After a couple of years as his capable understudy, Waller would have been well within his rights to expect his chance to shine had finally arrived.

But the arrival of Lions hero Alex Corbisiero looked set to limit his involvement again. A re-surfacing of knee problems for the England star has opened the door, however.

Waller, who has started eight of Saints’ Premiership games this season as opposed to only one last term, said: “Unfortunately, Alex (Corbisiero) sustained an injury early on but I’ve been able to start nearly every week from there and I’m really enjoying my rugby.

“Soane is a great guy and I learned a lot from him – he taught me a lot of stuff. He taught me some techniques and Alex has been very much the same this year.

“If you have any issues or if you have struggled with someone at the weekend and want to work on it, he’ll happily chat with you and work on it together.

“We lost Soane and Brian Mujati last year and people questioned whether we’d be a similar force.

“But I think Salesi (Ma’afu), Dylan (Hartley), myself and Alex (Corbisiero) have done well and we’ve got some good lads behind us in the scrum. We pride ourselves on our scrummaging and hopefully we’ve carried that on.”

The Saxons is traditionally a training school for future senior England involvement and while Waller knows he has his work cut out for him at club level, the prop is allowing himself to dare to dream.

“Hopefully I’ll be pushing when Alex comes back. I don’t think I’ve been playing too badly but the competition should drive both of us forward,” he added.

“I can build on that in the next few years or so and push for a spot in the senior spot.

“We’ll just have to see how it goes, but for now I’m happy to be in the Saxons and if I play right, and play well here, the performances will look after themselves.”

MATT WRIGHT

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