We sat down with Northampton Saints attack coach Sam Vesty ahead of this weekend’s Gallagher Premiership clash against Bath Rugby…
Q: Was last Friday’s win at Bristol Bears the best performance of the season so far from Northampton Saints?
SV: I think it was a good 80-minute performance from us. We did what we wanted to do and got a great result off the back of it. Our scrum was dominant and the boys have been dominant for most of the year, so it was great to see in that game. I was really happy with the fact that we stuck to our guns and kept knocking and hammering away at the door, and we didn’t get our reward until we’d had lots of sets of phases. We attacked really well for 33 minutes, but we hadn’t actually scored at that point. By 35 minutes, we’d scored two tries and all of that hard work came out in those two tries, so I was really pleased with that.
Q: Tommy Freeman scored two tries on his return from international duty. Was that a reminder of what huge potential he has?
SV: He’s a cracking prospect and they were a couple of great finishes from him. He’s got some real skills, Tommy. England had talked about him and he can do most things on a rugby pitch; he’s tall, he’s quick, he’s got skills and he’s brave – so he’s what you want in a rugby player. Tommy ticks a lot of those boxes and I hope he gets the chance to play loads of games for us and, if he does well in those, there’s no telling where he might end up.
Q: Just how key was it to get that result, after what had been a tricky few weeks?
SV: It’s important every week, isn’t it? We’d actually been pretty happy with how the two Premiership Rugby Cup matches went. We didn’t get the results but the performances, on the whole, were pretty good and we got loads of improvement out of a group that had had limited opportunities to play. Some people really put their hand up. You don’t necessarily judge those PRC games on winning, you judge them on performances.
Q: How well did those matches prepare you for the next time players will be away on international duty?
SV: A lot of those guys train their backsides off on the training pitch to try and get a chance to wear that jersey and output what they’re trying to train all the time. It’s a big moment for them and now they’ve done it, I think we can see a lot more out of that group because I was really impressed with them.
Q: How’s the situation with the squad, ahead of the Bath game, in terms of fitness?
SV: We’ve got a fairly clean bill of health, although there are a couple of little niggles around the squad. Ollie Sleightholme has started training again with us now, so there’s a chance that he might be fit and available for the weekend. It would be good to have him running around with us again. Without naming names, everyone else is progressing nicely.
Q: Bath put up a good performance against Exeter Chiefs last week, even though they did not quite get over the line to get the win. Does that help our players stay focused ahead of an important game on Saturday?
SV: They have got some quality individuals who are starting to play pretty well together, and this will be a massive test of our game. It’s really important that we set our standards high, and we just focus on being as good as we can be every week. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. Our focus is on how good we can be, and we set our own standards to that. In that mindset, we’re actually playing against ourselves each week.
Q: How important is it for Saints to be clinical in attack on Saturday?
SV: Bath’s defence is all about being scrappy, they’re going to go after the breakdown massively. They’ve got strong set-pieces and they’ve got individuals that can hurt you in the flash of a moment. They’re not going to be without a win for very long, but it’s up to us to ensure that they don’t get one on Saturday.