Northampton Saints had a mixed bag of results in the first month of 2022, and Tom Wood says the side must now reset and start afresh in the second half of the Gallagher Premiership season.
After starting the new year with a disappointing loss to Saracens, the men in Black, Green and Gold sandwiched a narrow defeat at the hands of Ulster with two bonus-point victories in the league.
And with the latest 29-13 win over Worcester Warriors keeping Saints just three points outside of the top four after 13 rounds, Wood insisted the side must refocus ahead of the second half of the season if they are to challenge for silverware at the end of it.
“We’ve talked about this being the second half of the season and a fresh start,” Wood said.
“We wanted to start [this period] well, so it was an important five points against Worcester. But we feel there’s an awful lot that we’re frustrated about and disappointed with from the second half of that game in particular.
“The changing room was quite mixed after that game, a lot of mixed emotions in there, a lot of frustration. I think we caused ourselves a lot of stress that we didn’t need to; we went into panic and stress mode a lot and didn’t really enjoy the second half and get what we wanted out of it. Lots to learn but we’ll take the five points every day.
“I think Boydy normally describes matches like that as a pass mark.
“I don’t think we’ve got anything to be too excited about so far but hopefully we’re building nicely and hopefully we can peak at the right time.”Tom Wood
“It’s not the worst thing to do it this way, if we can keep building nicely and make sure we’re in an around that top four, we can get ourselves into a position to challenge come the end.”
Despite Saints’ squad having an average age of just 24, Wood is certain that the maturity of the players around him is peaking at the right time to allow the more seasoned heads to hand over the reigns.
He said: “I 100% believe we’ve got the talent within the squad. I think we’re just starting to see the seeds of leadership and authority growing within the playing group. For the last couple of years, we’ve perhaps been guilty of being schoolchildren a bit, with the leadership only coming from the coaches.
“But now we’re starting to get hold of that as a team a bit better. The likes of [Fraser] Dingwall, [George] Furbank, [Alex] Mitchell stepping up leading, and obviously with Lewis [Ludlam] too.
“That kind of youngster who’s come through the Academy; you can’t really describe them as youngsters anymore, they’re established players with 50 plus caps under their belts. And they’re starting to grab the reigns from myself and Alex [Waller], [Dan] Biggar and Courtney [Lawes]; we can start to step back a little bit and let those guys start to take that on.
“I enjoy my rugby being able to be a lot more relaxed. I’ve spoken before about how you can get a bit overwhelmed and stressed wearing the captain’s armband when there’s the frustration of not getting results week to week.
“So, to be able to just enjoy my rugby and allow those guys to have the reigns is nice for me.”
Saints sit in fifth place in the Premiership table as they head into a bye weekend; but with just eight points separating Northampton and eighth-place Wasps, the side must keep their recent run of Premiership good form if they are to stay in contention for silverware.
And, for Wood, that means Saints must stay focussed every moment on the field and try not to get ahead of themselves.
“I think we’ve got to get a mindset of being in the moment,” Wood added. “We need to look at the next job regardless of scorelines, league tables, what the match the following week is. I think we get guilty of looking too far ahead sometimes or worried about the bigger picture when actually what we need is a ‘next job’ mentality.
“It’s very easy to say that and it’s very much harder to do it. Against Worcester I think we were very guilty of that, half-time came at the wrong time for us and then having done all the hard work into the wind and slightly up the hill in the first half I think we felt like things were going to come a lot easier in the second half and it just never does.
“You know the other team are getting revved up in the changing room, they’ve got nothing to lose, they’re going to come out all guns blazing. You only have to take your foot off the gas by two percent and you find yourself in the situation we were where we didn’t enjoy that second half at all. We just about got the job done but we weren’t able to play a lot of rugby, we found ourselves under the pump and we got frustrated.
“If you want to be a top-four team and you want to be challenging for silverware, you’ve got to be better than that in those moments.”