Taqele Naiyaravoro is the first to admit that Northampton Saints do not have the run-in to this season they had dreamed of, with a top-four spot in the Gallagher Premiership now beyond them.
But with a European Champions Cup quarter-final in store on Sunday, the mammoth winger is desperate to help the men in Black, Green and Gold wrestle back some momentum after a frustrating run of form.
Saints have won just once since rugby’s return following the hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, going down 28-24 last time out to bitter rivals Leicester Tigers, a run that has seen them slide out of domestic play-off contention.
However Northampton have a shot at some redemption in their crosshairs this weekend; table-topping Exeter Chiefs lie in wait in the knock-out stages of Europe’s elite competition on Sunday – and the 28-year-old Australia international insists Chris Boyd’s side will be going hell for leather to deliver a performance to be proud of at Sandy Park.
“I’ve had the honour of playing there twice and Exeter are always an exciting team to test yourself against,” Naiyaravoro said.
“They’re up at the top of the Premiership for a reason. They make hard things look very easy and they’re a very tough side, but it’s something for us to look forward to.
“We want to move on from last week [against Leicester] and there is excitement there. We’re in the quarter-finals and we want to get down there and do a job on them.
“We just need to try to find our feet and moving forward, get our confidence back. Playing these games that are left with grit and determination is key.
“We want to show respect to ourselves and the jersey.”Taqele Naiyaravoro
“It’s about giving our best week in, week out from here, hopefully progressing in Europe and picking up a couple of league wins, and then focusing on the new season.”
The East Midlands Derby may have been raging around him last weekend, but Naiyaravoro was up against a friend at Leicester – with his battle with opposite number Nemani Nadolo a real focal point.
Imposing wing Nadolo, who spent a little time in the scrum when his side lost players to the sin bin, eventually won out as Tigers secured a 28-24 victory.
Naiyaravoro said: “Nemzy is a good mate of mine. I played against him back when I was in Super Rugby. I was one up on him, so now unfortunately we’re drawing.
“I saw him in the scrum and I was screaming at him ‘get to the front’.”
Saints have resolved their own scrummaging crisis by bringing in loosehead prop Alex Seville on loan from Gloucester.
But Naiyaravoro joked he would be ready to get involved in a shove or two if needed.
“I just told them I’d take a pair of boots with different studs down to Exeter to be in the scrum,” he said, laughing.
“I have actually been in the scrum a few times, but never in the front row of course. It’s such a specialist position there, whereas I just try to push as hard as I can!”