With eight Saints in the reckoning for selection at this year’s Six Nations, we follow the action for all five rounds to see how our Northampton contingent fare throughout the Championship.
BIGGAR MASTERMINDS THUMPING WELSH WIN
A Dan Biggar masterclass helped defending Grand Slam champions Wales put Italy to the sword in Cardiff, with new coach Wayne Pivac celebrating a 42-0 triumph.
Josh Adams stole the headlines with a hat-trick, while George North and debutant Nick Tompkins grabbed the other tries, but Biggar also added 13 points from the kicking tee and ran the game from fly-half.
“When you are in decent form you seem to have half a second more. I am aware you are only as good as your next game.”Dan Biggar
A brilliant all-round showing from the 30-year-old No.10 was capped with a sumptuous through-the-legs pass to set up Adams’ second try – a move reminiscent of former Northampton fly-half and ex-All Black Carlos Spencer.
“It was slightly behind me, so I thought I would just flick it and hope for the best,” said Biggar. “The boys have given me stick, I think I could have just passed it normally!
“I feel pretty good in myself, feels like I am in decent nick at the minute. The way we are playing suits me, looking to get the ball through my hands as quickly as possible.
“When you are in decent form you seem to have half a second more. I am aware you are only as good as your next game.
“When you are in good form you have to take advantage and try and cash in a little bit. I also like when I am not at my best and you have to roll your sleeves up.”
FURBANK DEBUTS BUT ENGLAND BEATEN IN PARIS
George Furbank made his eagerly anticipated England debut in Sunday’s clash in Paris, but it was France who came out on top against the World Cup finalists.
In wet conditions at the Stade de France the 23-year-old full-back and Northampton lock Courtney Lawes started for the Red Rose, but in an uncharacteristically error-strewn performance from Eddie Jones’ men, the hosts opened up a 17-0 lead in a one-sided first half.
Vincent Rattez and captain Charles Ollivon crossed the whitewash for tries, and when the latter doubled his tally after half-time the writing looked on the wall for England.
Saints flanker Lewis Ludlam entered the fray amid a fightback from the visitors, with two pieces of individual brilliance from Jonny May bringing them back into the contest, but ultimately England left themselves too much to do as France held on to win 24-17.
HUTCHINSON UNABLE TO TURN THE TIDE FOR SCOTLAND
Rory Hutchinson made his Six Nations debut off the bench for Scotland but an eight-minute cameo could not help his side overhaul Ireland in Dublin.
The 23-year-old, Scotland’s most-capped ever player in the U20 Six Nations, was thrust into the action with his side needing a converted try in the closing stages to level up their opening clash against Ireland.
But Scotland were made to rue an earlier error from captain Stuart Hogg, whose drop over the line ultimately proved costly as Gregor Townsend’s side were beaten 19-12 – with new skipper Johnny Sexton scoring all of Ireland’s points at the Aviva Stadium.
ENGLAND U20s GET OFF TO WINNING START
Both JJ Tonks and Manny Iyogun earned their first caps for England U20s as the Red Rose edged out France in the dying moments in Grenoble.
Led by head coach Alan Dickens – the former Saint in charge of his first match at international level – Tonks started for England at flanker and made his presence felt with several crunching hits.
“This is such a new group; we had nine debutants on the field so to come away to France and score four tries and play outstandingly well is an amazing achievement.”Alan Dickens
The visitors led 10-9 at the break through Rusiate Tuima’s try and five points from the boot of Josh Hodge, before extending that advantage to 24-12 as Hodge and Tom Roebuck also crossed the whitewash.
Prop Iyogun, another of England’s nine debutants at U20 level in the match, entered the action in the second half but it was France who came to life in the closing stages, drawing level thanks to two late tries.
But England showed their clinical nature as they went through several phases before Richard Capstick bundled over during the final play to earn a dramatic win.
“We kept on fighting and got the win and that just shows how tight this group are,” said Dickens. “We knew we would get one more chance and they showed great composure to score it.
“This is such a new group; we had nine debutants on the field so to come away to France and score four tries and play outstandingly well is an amazing achievement. I’m pleased but we need to look forward and we have a tough challenge against Scotland next. We’ll need to recover, prepare and put in another performance.”