It’s been quite a year for Northampton academy prop Emmanuel Iyogun.
Handed his first senior academy contract heading into the 2019/20 campaign, DoR Chris Boyd planned a season of development for the 19-year-old.
But Iyogun, who only began playing rugby at the age of 14 – and switched to the front row at 18 – has exceeded expectations. You can see how Iyogun and Northampton fare in the new Premiership season with help from w88 and their odds on a range of sports.
Following Premiership Shield action with Northampton Wanderers, the loosehead was picked in the England U20 Six Nations squad in February, featuring in four matches and starting the final one against Wales.
He paid tribute to England U20 coach Alex Codling, who’s helped him on his upward trajectory.
“Playing for England U20s was unreal and really benefitted my scrummaging,” said Iyogun. “Alex was class in teaching me new techniques like getting my right shoulder through.”
Last month the Madrid-born forward was called up for his Premiership debut off the bench at Leicester.
“After the Bristol game there’d been a few injuries and my agent joked that I was in,” he said. “But the next day, ‘Boydy’ called me in and asked if I was ready. I sat there, probably a bit underweight after lockdown, but I replied: “Yes, I’m ready to give it a go.”
“He said if I felt confident, then he was confident. The rest is history. I really enjoyed my first hit-out even though it was an unfortunate result.”
The following week Saints travelled to Sandy Park to face Exeter in the Champions Cup quarter-finals – their first knockout appearance in the competition since 2014/15.
“I was buzzing,” said Iyogun. “Boydy explained that many Premiership players who reach 200-250 caps don’t ever get to taste European knockout rugby, and that spoke volumes to me.
“To have only had one cap and be chucked straight into a quarter-final was pretty insane.”
Iyogun started his first Premiership game nine days later at Sale, but then with 16 of Sale’s players testing positive for Covid-19, Saints had to self-isolate and could not field a team against Gloucester.
“It was a shame the season had to end that way,” said Iyogun. “It would have been an opportunity to end with the young lads trying to put some good rugby out there.
“We started the season really well and there are lots of positives to take. Many young players have performed well and it’s a foundation for next season to keep building.”
While some teammates have headed to Cyprus for a pre-season break, Iyogun has been burying his head in the books.
He added: “I’ve just started a degree in law but hopefully I’ll head out to Greece with the family after isolation.
“Next season I want to build on what I’ve done and keep playing. I wouldn’t have dreamt a year ago about being in the position I am now.”