Tommy Freeman exclusive: Northampton Saints sorcerer hoping to produce Champions Cup magic

Magic man: Tommy Freeman has enjoyed a terrific season with Northampton and England (Getty Images)
Magic man: Tommy Freeman has enjoyed a terrific season with Northampton and England (Getty Images)

England’s magic man Tommy Freeman has revealed the secrets behind his wow-factor tricks that cover cards, club and country too.

The Northampton Saints wing doubles as an amateur magician, and pulled off a stunning card trick in front of superstar conjurer Dynamo himself during England’s Six Nations campaign.

The 22-year-old has been casting spells on opposition defences for both Saints and England all season, but also knows just how to entrance an audience with a deck of cards.

The potent wing will need all of those sorcery skills when Northampton face Leinster in Saturday’s Champions Cup semi-final at a sold-out Croke Park in Dublin.

And now Freeman has drawn a neat parallel between the reality of a peek behind the curtain into the worlds of both magic and rugby.

“It was a bit nerve-wracking performing the trick for Dynamo to be honest,” Freeman tells Standard Sport.

“If you look closely when I get his card, you can see my hand shaking in the corner.

“If I’d got it wrong, given the amount of times I’ve done it, I’d have been ashamed of myself, to be honest!

“It was awesome to have him in as well. My brothers and I used to watch him on TV as kids all the time, so it was so cool to meet him in the flesh.

Freeman has established himself as a regular fixture on the wing for England (Getty Images)
Freeman has established himself as a regular fixture on the wing for England (Getty Images)

“He’s really down to earth, a proper nice guy, and he almost shows his personality through some of his tricks, which is an awesome thing to be able to do.

“I started the magic when I was younger, at school. I was shown a card trick by someone, and I got that ‘wow’ feeling, and was left wondering how they did it. That left me wanting to find out more.

“It is just something I’ve enjoyed playing around with and it’s great to be able to pull out a trick with your mates, but it’s certainly not a future career idea or anything.

“All I will say is, that wow feeling is lot better than knowing how the trick is done! Getting the wows is obviously part of it, and part of the reason why I like to do it.

“But when you see a trick and they tell you how they have done it, then it can actually be very simple.”

When Freeman turns his hand to rugby, the supremely gifted wing quickly draws comparisons between the complex training and sophisticated preparation that goes into producing what is, in reality, a simple card trick.

Premiership leaders Northampton have made a real feature of distilling some of the most complicated ideas and plans into a coherent and compelling strategy.

Now boss Phil Dowson’s Saints must go up against the mighty Leinster, and in the Irish province’s home city of Dublin, albeit on the other side of the Irish capital from their regular Donnybrook and Aviva Stadium haunts.

A place in the Champions Cup final at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 25 is on the line on Saturday, and Saints have no doubts about their ability to topple their Irish counterparts.

“A lot of what we do is based around having the structure to play outside of that structure,” explains Freeman, who firmly established himself as a starting England wing in the Six Nations.

“Outside of your set moves and plays, it’s just rugby at the end of the day: you want to get the ball to space and you want to put fast people in that space, and get the rewards off the back of that.

“You see risk versus reward, you’re in your own half, you think: ‘kick, chase, stop them up there, hopefully get the ball back and start attacking’.

“And that’s kind of what some teams do but I think from the start if there’s space to go in your own half, why not? Go and take it, you’ve got the skills and players to do it.

We feel lucky and privileged to be a part of this occasion

Tommy Freeman on Leinster semi-final

“It’s been important for us having the licence to be able to do both, and to make the decisions ourselves rather than having a lot to stick to.”

Northampton will become the first English club rugby side to play at Croke Park on Saturday, the home of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA).

British forces opened fire at Croke Park on Bloody Sunday on November 21, 1920, killing 14 people attending a Gaelic football match.

Saints rugby director Phil Dowson organised a brief history lesson for his players this week.

Four-time Champions Cup winners and three-time runners-up, Leinster dwarf most teams’ record at European club rugby’s pinnacle. But Saints will pitch up in Dublin undaunted.

“We’re certainly going into this game with the attitude that we can win,” said Freeman.

“We know that they can lose these games, and England beat Ireland at Twickenham earlier this season.

“They are not unbeatable, but equally they are such a high-quality side.

“We will definitely bring everything we’ve got and put them under as much pressure as we possibly can. We are buzzing for the opportunity, it is something we’ve worked extremely hard for.

“Phil Dowson is a big history man, and having an understanding of what we’ll be walking into this weekend is vital.

“All of us had goosebumps coming out of the meeting. We feel lucky and privileged to be a part of this occasion.”