We sat down with Northampton Saints’ Director of Rugby, Chris Boyd, ahead of this weekend’s home Gallagher Premiership clash against Sale Sharks…
Q: What do you make of this weekend’s visitors, Sale Sharks?
CB: We know that they’re a good side. They’ve won their last three games, including two decent victories against Harlequins and Leicester, and disposed of Worcester quite comfortably last week, so they’re on a bit of a roll. They will no double be a handful for us, so the lessons that we hopefully learned against Leicester last week will apply quite nicely for Sale on Saturday.
Q: Do you look for a reaction, after the performance at Leicester?
CB: You do, but you shouldn’t have to. Most high-performance teams in any sport are trying to win every game they play. The reality is sometimes you aren’t good enough to do that, but we certainly go out with hope every time we play that if we go into the top drawer and have a decent performance from most of our individuals, then we’re going to be there or thereabouts. There aren’t many teams in this league that can have poor performances and expect to win.
We didn’t fire a shot, which at Leicester was really disappointing. It should be an emotional game and we didn’t fire a shot, emotionally. We didn’t come to the party at all – I’m not sure why, but that was massively disappointing for everybody concerned, so we just have to dust ourselves down and get going again.
Q: Was the display at Welford Road a hard one to explain?
CB: It’s interesting because we’ve had reasonably good success against Leicester in the last three or four years – we’ve beaten them away from home there two or three times, but this year, for the first time since I’ve been here, we’ve lost twice to Leicester in a season. Both of them were pretty wretched performances, really, so that’s disappointing. One of the best performances we had, in 2019, was against Leicester, at Leicester, where I thought we were outstanding. You would think that local derby aspect takes care of the emotional part, but we didn’t fire a shot.
Q: How is the squad looking, in terms of injuries, at the moment?
CB: Woody’s been down in Cardiff this week, having a specialist appointment. We’re uncertain around what that means – it could be anything from fairly significant to not too significant. His shoulder popped out against Leicester and it’s just how much damage it did, so we hold our breath for him.
Taqele Naiyaravoro is unfortunately still a couple of months away. He’s coming along nicely, but it’s a long injury. Tommy Freeman sustained a pretty substantial hamstring tear at an English training session, so he’s a good month away. Alex Moon had his wires removed from his fingers the other day. They couldn’t find one of them, so they had to open his finger back up, so that’s put him back another couple of weeks and he’s probably a month away as well. We’ve had some unfortunate longish-term injuries this season that you can’t control, so he’s one that’s just taking a bit of time. But Piers Francis has been training and he is back in the 23 this weekend.
Q: There’s a very interesting run of games coming up, especially with the middle of the Gallagher Premiership table becoming so tight…
CB: Between third to ninth, there’s less than eight points – and it was always going to be like that. There were going to be a couple of teams that might have struggled, you’ve got an idea of who they are but you’re never 100 per cent sure at the start. Momentum and stuff is very important and some teams have got a nice run going now, others have had a pretty decent run and then they’ve gone a little bit quiet, so it’s just a really tough competition.
Q: With that in mind, how important is it to make home advantage count these next two weeks at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens?
CB: Sale and Exeter at home are two pretty tough games in any season, but at the end of the day, when you’re in a league situation, you’ve got to win so many games to make the top four and it’s an accumulation of points. We need to accumulate some more points, so Sale is very important to us this week, but Leicester was very important to us as well last week and we were pretty miserable. They’re all tough, and we need to improve.
Q: Following the match against Sale, Loughborough Lightning will play their first game at the Gardens. How good will it be to have them here?
CB: It’s awesome, that partnership with Loughborough Lightning. I think there was a lot of research done around the best way to promote the women’s game in the area and that was the conclusion that the powers that be came up with. I think the relationship with Loughborough is really good anyway – we send some of our youngsters up there to play, they’ve got a great facility up there and Loughborough Lightning is a fantastic addition to the Northampton Saints family. To have them play here, on the same day as us, is awesome.