Northampton breathe sigh of relief as they sign Alex Seville on emergency loan from Gloucester after injury crisis decimated squad and led to scrum safety fears ahead of Exeter clash
- Northampton were plunged into a prop injury crisis ahead of Exeter clash
- The Saints were desperately seeking emergency assistance for Sunday’s tie
- Manny Iyogun, 19, was Saints’ only fit and available loosehead option
- EPCR have relented and allowed Northampton to sign emergency cover
Alex Seville is riding to the rescue of Northampton amid their injury crisis at prop ahead of match against Exeter
Northampton have signed Gloucester prop Alex Seville as emergency loosehead cover for Sunday’s Heineken European Champions Cup quarter-final at Exeter after receiving belated approval from tournament organisers EPCR.
The Saints are preparing to reluctantly pitch teenage rookie Emmanuel Iyogun into their starting XV for the daunting tie at Sandy Park, due to the injury crisis which has left them without four leading looseheads.
Safety fears had been compounded by the European authorities’ initial refusal to amend their registration regulations to allow the East Midlands club to bring in another recognised prop at short notice.
However, EPCR have now relented and agreed to Northampton’s pleas for a common-sense solution. A statement released this morning read: ‘The EPCR board have unanimously agreed to a change in the tournament rules which permits the registration of front row players after the September 1 deadline.
Manny Iyogun, 19, was Saints’ only fit and available loosehead option for Sunday
‘Northampton Saints have registered Alex Seville for the remainder of the Heineken Champions Cup season and Dragons have registered Conor Maguire for the Challenge Cup campaign. Both are eligible to play in this weekend’s quarter-finals.’
Responding to the favourable verdict, Saints chief executive Mark Darbon said: ‘We are pleased that EPCR have adopted a sensible approach in today’s ruling.
‘Given the length of time it took for this decision to be made, and the challenge of bringing in new players at this stage of the season, especially with all of the COVID-19 related measures in place, we would like to thank Gloucester who have agreed to loan us Alex Seville on a short-term basis until the end of September.
‘Alex will join up with the squad on Friday and will be available for our European Champions Cup quarter-final match on Sunday. We are also grateful to Exeter for the pragmatism they have shown in supporting today’s decision.’
The relaxation of the registration system for front-row players is a permanent measure and a welcome one which reduces safety fears and the threat of uncontested scrums undermining marquee fixtures.
Northampton’s director of rugby, Chris Boyd, has been engaged in a frantic recruitment exercise which has been hampered by red tape and the COVID pandemic. Speaking on Wednesday, before EPCR had approved a signing, he said: ‘Yesterday, we tried to see if we could convert one of our four tightheads into a loosehead, and that was spectacularly unsuccessful.
‘We had a scrum session at seven in the morning to see if anybody felt remotely comfortable doing that. Ben Franks likened it to playing golf and trying to change from right hand to left hand, so that was ruled out.
‘We have rung Scottish clubs, Irish clubs, Welsh clubs and every Championship club. We’ve had all sorts of people flinging their CV at us; a Brazilian and a Portuguese guy. Everyone either has COVID restrictions or visa restrictions. We’ve even looked at who has retired in the last three years who might be floating around doing nothing.
Northampton rugby director Chris Boyd pleaded for EPCR to allow them an emergency signing
Seville (bottom centre, with ball) will now stay with the Saints until the end of the season
‘We’ve had a couple of clubs offer us their fourth-choice loosehead – a youngster who hasn’t played any rugby – and we might have to take somebody like that. But we need to get approval. We face a situation where we have a youngster with zero experience, so we went back to EPCR to plead our case. The wheels have moved extremely slowly.
‘We are not looking to get a significant advantage. We’re not taking the p***. I am not trying to find the best loosehead prop in the world or get the Beast (Tendai Mtawarira). We are just looking to get someone who can play safely and we would be hopeful that common-sense would prevail.’
Asked about the novice who he will have to select to wear the No 1 shirt, Boyd added: ‘Manny is a 19-year-old boy who has played all his rugby at No 8, and has never really played in a men’s scrum before. He had a couple of games for Loughborough University. He is going to be a good kid, but he is very, very inexperienced. The fact he’s going to have to start against Exeter in a European quarter-final after being in a (senior) scrum for only 60 minutes is a massively big ask for the kid.’
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