We sat down with Northampton Saints fullback George Furbank ahead of the men in Black, Green and Gold’s home Heineken Champions Cup clash against Munster Rugby this coming Sunday…
Q: How do you reflect on last weekend’s defeat at Stade Rochelais?
GF: Very frustrated, to be honest, particularly at that first half. We didn’t feel like we threw a punch or put any part of our game on the field, and then indiscipline allowed them into our half and ultimately, they kept coming away with points when they got into our half. It was an incredibly frustrating evening. Obviously, we can look at the second half and say we performed a little bit better then, but the game, at 32-0, is done by that stage. We did some good things and we showed some of our best stuff at times, but nowhere near enough to come away with the result.
Q: What is the feeling in the squad over the amount of points being conceded recently?
GF: We’re trying to work on a few fixes, the backs with one-on-one tackling, that sort of thing, and then for everyone we need to just keep improving in our system. We feel like we’ve got a good system and it’s individual errors within that system that is leading to line breaks and ultimately points against us. Also, our discipline has not been good enough. I don’t know what our average penalties against is per game, but we’re pretty high. If you give away loads of penalties, you lose territory and you’re put under pressure which leads to more penalties.
Q: How have you found your own form so far this season?
GF: I’ve been enjoying my rugby. I’ve always got little work-ons to improve, but in terms of the areas I’ve focused on improving since the start of the season, I feel like I’ve done that. It’s about consistency in performance and if I can keep consistently performing and helping the team, that’s the main thing for me.
Q: Everyone is getting used to playing behind new fly-half Fin Smith, what has that been like so far?
GF: He’s got a very mature head on a young body, which is awesome to have. He’s competitive, he’s got a very good skill set and he’s doing a very good job for us at the moment. I thought he played very well last weekend and hopefully he can continue the form he’s in at the moment.
Q: Are you surprised at all with how quickly he’s adapted since signing in October?
GF: A little bit, but that said he’s had that experience of being a very young guy playing at 10 for Worcester, and I think that matured him pretty quickly. He was playing well for Worcester and that allowed him to come here and start well. Sam Vesty gave him a run-down of how we like to play and that sort of suits his game as well, so I think both parties have matched nicely.
Q: Saints have managed to turn things around after not picking up results before, how much confidence do you take from that after what has been a frustrating couple of games?
GF: The situation is nowhere near like what it was back in 2020, when we lost more than ten games on the bounce. We don’t believe we’re going to go into any sort of run like that. The frustrating thing is we think we’re really close, and it’s those few little fixes that we know if we can put right and put in an 80-minute performance, then we will come away with results. Dows [Phil Dowson] ultimately always says that if we perform, we’ll win, and at the moment we’re not quite performing to the level we need to be at.
Q: Have you taken on more of a leadership role in the squad since that run of defeats you mentioned?
GF: I think everyone learned from that period and came out better leaders and better players from that. We’ve got a lot of lads who are around my age, and we are now stepping up into those leadership roles. It’s a continuous learning curve in doing that – I wouldn’t say I was a massive speaker, but I’m happy now to step into that role when I need to, and there are a lot of boys in a similar situation which is good to have.
Q: Home form has, however, been good this season – what are your thoughts ahead of the Heineken Champions Cup game against Munster?
GF: They’re a massive historical side in the competition and they played pretty well against a really good Toulouse side, so they’re going to bring a lot of physicality, and a lot of experience with the internationals they have. It’s going to be a tough game but one that we are incredibly excited for, particularly with it being at home as it’s almost a sell-out now. It will be a great occasion on Sunday.
Q: Does it feel like a ‘must win’ game for both teams after last weekend’s losses?
GF: It does. Graham Rowntree has spoken about how it’s a ‘must win’ for Munster and it’s the same for us. I don’t think we want to put that sort of pressure on ourselves and tighten up with that sort of pressure, we want to just be free and have a clear mind. Dows always wants us to focus on performance at the Club, rather than the result, because we believe if we perform, we’ll come away with the result.
Q: It’s the first time in over a decade Saints are playing Munster, which means a first game against them for yourself. What does that mean to you?
GF: I’m incredibly excited. Dows showed a clip in the meeting this week of when he played them at home back in the day. It’s a pretty cool opportunity to have, because not many Saints sides have had the chance to play against such a historical powerhouse like Munster, so I’m incredibly excited for the challenge.
Q: It’s actually Saints’ last game of the year, with a bye week coming over Christmas. Will it feel strange not to have a game around then?
GF: It’s unreal – Courts [Courtney Lawes] was saying he’s never had a week off over Christmas, so we’re pretty lucky that we’re relatively new into our careers and we’ve got our first week off. I think the boys are going to be making the most of that!