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High-octane Teimana Harrison backed for Test berth

Teimana HarrisonTeimana Harrison deserves a shot in Red Rose colours according to North-ampton coach Alex King, who reckons the youngster’s mongrel spirit bears comparison with his old Wasps mate, Paul Volley.

Harrison has attracted the attention of Red Rose supremo Eddie Jones after a stellar season in which he has emerged from the shadows in the injury absence of Calum Clark.

Jones last week described the New Zealand-born, 23-year-old openside as “combustible” and King told The Rugby Paper: “I think he justifies any England selection he gets this summer because his performances have been outstanding.

“He’s a young player who’s starting to fulfil his full potential and it would be great if he got that recognition as part of the next step.

“He’s slightly different to Paul Volley but what they do have in common is that hugely competitive streak and they play with real intensity. That’s invaluable at the highest level and if Teimana does get picked he won’t let anyone down.

“You never want injuries in your squad but what it has done at Saints is give the likes of Teimana opportunities and he’s been exceptional.”

Harrison is not the only young Saint to have caught the eye during a difficult season, with 19-year-old centre Harry Mallinder also impressing.

“Harry’s deserved his chance and taken it,” King said. “He’s really added an attacking dimension to the way we want to play and learns quickly.

“He’s become a very important player for us and next year both he and Teimana will be a year older and far better players for their experience.

“We’ve brought through a lot of players this year and the academy’s producing more going forward, which is a positive for the club.”

Last week’s home defeat by Leicester means Saints are likely to miss out on the Premiership play-offs for the first time since season 2009-10, prompting some fans to question whether changes to the coaching staff are needed.

But King counters: “It’s a competitive league and that’s just the nature of the sport. Expectations are very high and that frustration comes off the back of six or seven years in semi-finals and finals both in the Premiership and Europe.

“There’s no need to panic, the club’s in good shape, but we’ve paid for a lack of consistency.

“It wasn’t an easy start with the World Cup, but that’s no excuse. You’re judged on results and a poor start put us under pressure.

“We came back well during the Six Nations but haven’t followed through and now we’re looking to end the season as high as we can.

“We’re determined to give our fans something to cheer about – starting with Bath this week.”

NEALE HARVEY

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