Northampton breathe a sigh of relief as they sign Alex Sevilla on emergency loan from Gloucester after the injury crisis decimated the squad and raised fears for the safety of the scrum ahead of the Exeter clash
- Northampton was plunged into an accessory injury crisis before the Exeter clash
- Saints were desperate for emergency help for Sunday tie
- 19-year-old Manny Iyogun was the only freehead option available and fit for the Saints
- The EPCR gave in and allowed Northampton to sign emergency cover
Alex Seville comes to the rescue of Northampton amid prop injury crisis ahead of Exeter game
Northampton signed Gloucester mainstay Alex Seville as an emergency cover for Sunday’s Heineken European Champions Cup quarter-final in Exeter after receiving late approval from EPCR tournament organizers.
The Saints are preparing to reluctantly launch teenage rookie Emmanuel Iyogun into their starting XV for the dreaded game at Sandy Park, due to the injury crisis that has left them without four prominent loose heads.
Safety fears had been compounded by the European authorities’ initial refusal to change their registration rules to allow the East Midlands club to bring in another recognized accessory on short notice.
However, the EPCR has now relented and accepted Northampton’s calls for a common sense solution. A statement released this morning read: “The EPCR Board of Directors unanimously agreed to a change in the tournament rules that allows for the registration of frontline players after the September 1 deadline.
Manny Iyogun, 19, was the only free head option available and fit for the Saints for Sunday
“The Northampton Saints have registered Alex Sevilla for the remainder of the Heineken Champions Cup season and the Dragons have registered Conor Maguire for the Challenge Cup campaign. Both are eligible to play in this weekend’s quarter-finals.
Responding to the favorable verdict, Saints Managing Director Mark Darbon said: “We are delighted that the EPCR has taken a sensible approach in today’s decision.
“Considering the time it took for this decision to be made and the challenge of bringing in new players at this point in the season, especially with all the COVID-19 measures in place, we would like to thank Gloucester who agreed to lend us Alex Seville on a short term basis until the end of September.
“Alex will join the team 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 and welcome measure that reduces fears for safety and the threat of unchallenged scrums undermining marquee matches.
Northampton rugby manager Chris Boyd has embarked on a frenzied recruiting exercise that has been hampered by bureaucracy and the COVID pandemic. Speaking on Wednesday, before the EPCR approved a signature, he said: “Yesterday we tried to see if we could convert one of our four tight heads to a loose head, and that was a spectacular failure.
“We had a scrum session at seven in the morning to see if anyone felt comfortable doing it. Ben Franks likened it to playing golf and trying to switch from right hand to left hand, so that was ruled out.
“We rang Scottish clubs, Irish clubs, Welsh clubs and all Championship clubs. We’ve had all kinds of people throwing their CVs at us; a Brazilian and a Portuguese. Everyone has either COVID restrictions or visa restrictions. We even looked at people who retired in the past three years who might be floating around doing nothing.
Northampton rugby manager Chris Boyd pleaded for the EPCR to allow them an emergency signing
Sevilla (bottom center, with ball) will now stay with the Saints until the end of the season
“We’ve had a few clubs come up with their fourth pick – a youngster who hasn’t played any rugby – and maybe we’ll have to take someone like that. But we have to get approval. We are faced with a situation where we have a young person with no experience, so we went back to the EPCR to make our case. The wheels moved extremely slowly.
“We are not looking to gain a significant advantage. We don’t take the p ***. I’m not trying to find the best loose prop in the world or get the Beast (Tendai Mtawarira). We’re just looking to find someone who can play it safe and we hope common sense will prevail.
Asked which rookie he will need to select to wear the No.1 jersey, Boyd added: “Manny is a 19-year-old boy who has played all of his rugby at No.8 and has never really played in a men’s scrum. before.. He played a few games for Loughborough University. He’s going to be a good boy, but he’s very, very inexperienced. The fact that he has to start against Exeter in the European quarterfinals after being in a scrum (senior) for only 60 minutes is a huge demand for the kid.