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Furbank: Saints will fight to keep top-four destiny in our own hands

We sat down with Northampton Saints fly-half / fullback George Furbank ahead of Friday evening’s Gallagher Premiership encounter with defending champions Harlequins at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens…

Q: How do you look back on last week’s dramatic 36-31 victory at Bath?
GF: It wasn’t the best 60 minutes to say the least! We’ve looked back at bits we need to be better at, but we also looked back at that last 20 minutes – how we managed to regroup, put our game on them and come away with the victory. It’s a big focus and that’s the belief we’re going to need to come away with victories in these last three games.

Q: Was that the sort of result Saints might not have been able to pull off in the past?
GF: We said that, actually. We said that, potentially, a year ago we might have been down and out, but Luds led the boys really well and spoke really well to make sure we were on the same page going into that last 20 minutes, and that allowed us to go and get the win.

Q: How important is it that the mistakes that were made in the first hour at The Rec are not repeated against Harlequins on Friday night?
GF: If we have a poor 20 minutes, let alone 60 minutes, then they’re the sort of team that can just run away with it, so we’re well aware we’re going to have to put in an 80-minute shift. Concentration is going to be a massive part of that because they can pull rabbits out of the hat from anywhere, so it’s going to be a big challenge but one we’re all looking forward to.

Q: Is it fair to say we know what kind of game it is going to be against Quins, given how much both teams enjoy attacking?
GF: I’m hoping it’s not going to get too loose, like it was at Twickenham, when it was score, score, score, score. We need our defence to be on point and shut them down as much as possible because they’re a tough side, if they get one or two scores ahead of you, to come back against. But we also want our attack to be firing. It’s going to be challenging physically, but that could open up space for guys like Tommy Freeman, Matty Proctor, and Ollie Sleightholme to exploit. If we can get them blowing in those last 10 minutes, we back ourselves to be a bit fitter and hopefully we can score points then.

Q: You’ve been covering for Dan Biggar at fly-half during his suspension, how much of a threat is your England colleague, Marcus Smith?
GF: He’s obviously a world-class fly-half, so it’s going to be a challenge. Tens don’t directly come up against each other too much, but it’s going to be a battle of who can manage the game best and you’re obviously relying on the people around you to get you on the front foot, which means you can then put your game on the park. It’s an exciting challenge.

Q: It’s going to be the last game Northampton Saints will play for three weeks. How important is it psychologically to go into that break with a win?
GF: It’s a massive game for us. It’s less thinking about the break and more thinking about this top four being in our control; if we win then there’s two games to go and it’s still in our control. You look at the table and you can see it’s in our own hands. You don’t know what teams around you are going to do – Gloucester could go and get three wins, Exeter could get those last two wins – but we need to try and go out there and get victory in those last three games.

Q: How are you looking at your season as a whole? It’s been a campaign where you’ve featured in two positions for Club and country…
GF: I’m loving it, it’s nice to be able to put a string of games together and I think I’ve needed that to get my game back to where I want it to be. I’m feeling like it’s there again, so I’m happy with how the season has gone so far and just want a big finish for the end now.

Q: How much did it help your momentum that England released you back for Saints duty when they did not select you in their matchday squads?
GF: Don’t get me wrong, it’s tough going into camp and back out of camp every week, but I’m grateful that we were able to because it allowed us to get that game time, which is crucial to keep any sort of form going or confidence going. It made a difference this year, being able to do that, as we couldn’t last year due to Covid restrictions.

Q: Do you feel as though combinations with guys like Rory Hutchinson and Fraser Dingwall are starting to come naturally now?
GF: You learn how each other plays the game and you can sort of feed off each other and you know how each other is going to play and what each other is likely to do. It’s an important thing to do, although rotation is also important and boys being able to flick in and out of the team is important. However, having combinations that have been there for a while is nice.

Q: Are you enjoying the increased responsibility you’re starting to get in the team, now you’re a bit more experienced?
GF: There are a few of us who are trying to step up into those leadership roles and when you have the likes of Biggs [Dan Biggar] and Courts [Courtney Lawes] out, the team needs that. We’re learning at that job and feel like that group of us is improving, so it’s a thing we need to keep working on.

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