We sat down with Northampton Saints lock David Ribbans ahead of a blockbuster East Midlands Derby against Leicester Tigers on Friday evening in the Gallagher Premiership…
Q: You’re going into tomorrow’s East Midlands derby against Leicester Tigers off the back of a week’s rest. Was it good to get away from rugby for a short time?
DR: It’s always great to have a bit of a break. A week off is good for the body, although unfortunately I wasn’t able to go abroad because of visa issues – having a South African passport means you can’t at the moment! Nonetheless, it was good to have some time off away from the Club and away from training to let the body recover a little bit.
Q: Were you still keeping track of what went on in the Gallagher Premiership last weekend?
DR: Of course we were keeping an eye on the scores and there were some good results for us, so we’re still in a decent position in the table – we haven’t dropped too many points from last weekend. Going back into this weekend, we’re excited, firstly because it’s a Derby and secondly because of where we could end up with a good win.
Q: It was a shame to hear about Lewis Ludlam’s injury after his performance for England against Scotland, how’s he been around the Club this week?
DR: It’s been clear to see how well he’s been playing for us week in, week out, and the way he’s captained us, his performances this season have been unbelievable. He fully deserved his place back in the England squad, and he proved it because he had a hell of a game last weekend. It’s disappointing for him, but also fingers crossed that it isn’t too bad. I had a quick word with him and he’s doing his rehab and stuff, so he can hopefully re-join the England squad before the end of the Six Nations and get back in there.
Q: How tricky is it to adapt to players being away during the Six Nations?
DR: It’s not ideal because they’re brilliant players, but at the same time we’ve got some good depth in our squad, so we’re able to adapt and we have players who can step up and fill some pretty big boots. We’re still confident.
Q: Looking ahead to Leicester, does it go without saying that everyone wants a very different result and a very different performance to the home fixture last October?
DR: There’s no two ways about it, it was an embarrassing performance at home. We let ourselves down in front of our own fans. It was obviously a tough day and it was one of those things that you don’t expect to happen on Derby Day. It was really disappointing, but we’ve had a good start to the week. Yes, there’s a little tension in the air, but we know what needs to be done, so there’s a lot of excitement. It should be a sold-out Welford Road on Friday night, under the lights. It doesn’t get much better than that, so it’s definitely a good opportunity to right some wrongs.
Q: While you’re aiming to right some wrongs, how important will it be to keep our discipline in what could be a feisty game?
DR: All this week, we’ve been focusing on ourselves and sometimes you can spend too much energy on focusing on the opposition. We’ve got to be careful with them because of where they are in the table, but we’ve also got to be able to impose ourselves on them, so if we get that right, anything could happen. We’ve been focusing on ourselves, but deep down we know we let ourselves down a couple of months ago, so we’ve got to make up for that.
Q: As a forward, you’ll know what’s coming from Leicester. Is it another thing being able to stop it?
DR: That’s obviously something we failed to do last time around. It starts up front and there’s going to be a big emphasis on us to bring that edge and confront them. They’ve got a physical, big pack, they want to bully teams – that’s the way they like to play, but it’s up to us to nullify that and, at the same time, play our game. It’s not about sitting back and defending against Leicester, as we’re going to attack them.
Q: You’ve been part of winning teams at Welford Road before, how much does wanting to do that again help motivate you?
DR: The last time we played there, there were no fans and we got a really good result. Hopefully, we can produce a similar performance and get a similar outcome in front of a sold-out Welford Road. I’m really looking forward to it, it’s going to be a great occasion – it’s going to be a loud crowd and there’s going to be a raucous atmosphere there. I can’t wait to be a part of it all and I’m just looking forward to the whole occasion. We’re trying not to focus too much on them, but on ourselves, and what we need to get right.