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Tom Wood of Northampton Saints
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Rugby

Wood convinced of potential of this Saints crop

Tom Wood reiterated his faith that this Northampton Saints squad has all the ability and belief required to turn around a slow start to their season, despite a home defeat to Bordeaux-Bègles on Friday in the Champions Cup opener.

The men in Black, Green and Gold could not capitalise on their dominance in both possession and territory in the 16-12 defeat to the Top14 outfit, but 34-year-old back row Wood is adamant the squad has the mettle to come out on the right side of contests that rest on a knife edge.

Despite Saints leading since Dan Biggar’s early second-half penalty, Bordeaux snatched the victory thanks to Santiago Cordero pouncing on a ricochet off the post following a Matthieu Jalibert penalty.

The Argentine’s score proved to be the difference on the scoreboard, Wood admitted that it was Northampton’s inability to put the game to bed before then that cost the hosts a victory.

“When the luck’s not with you, sometimes it’s not with you,” he said. “We’ve got plenty to look at ourselves; basic skills, kicks going dead off the end of the pitch, throwing ball on the floor in midfield, running in ones and getting turned over – that’s not what we’re about and we need to improve in those areas.

“But we’ve got the potential in the group. We’ve got the players, I truly believe that we’ve seen it in the past. We’ve got the coaching structure and the philosophy to do it.”

Tom Wood

“We need to take ownership because we should have won. We had possession and territory and didn’t get what we needed out of that.

“We left them within touching distance and a freakish thing like that - well the ball hits the post all the time, we should be in a position to mop that up and we didn’t.”

Despite the result, the night did mark the first opportunity for supporters to return to Franklin’s Gardens since the start of the pandemic – and Wood stressed how much of a difference even just 2,000 people make to the men in Black, Green and Gold.

He said: “As a professional, you turn up and give it your all each week. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in front of one man and his dog, or a full crowd, you always put your heart and soul into it.

“Franklin’s Gardens is such an awesome place to play when it’s full and buzzing. To have a taste of that again after such a long time and have a few numbers in – and to hear, ‘When The Saints Go Marching In’ again – really does make the occasion more special for everyone.”

Crucial fixtures continue to come thick and fast for Saints with a trip to Dublin to take on Leinster next week followed by a crucial stretch of Christmas fixtures against Worcester Warriors, London Irish and Leicester Tigers in the Gallagher Premiership Premiership.

And Wood insists Northampton remain a better side than results on the pitch might suggest.

“That’s why I’m hurting so much,” said the flanker. “If we were an average team that didn’t have the players, expectation and belief required, then we’d say, ‘we tried hard, we came up against a good team and that’s the way it goes’, but we’re not average.

“We should be a top four challenging team, but it’s very hard to say that publicly at the minute because of the results and the run of form we’re on.

“We’ve got to find a way of getting back to our best and there’s no easy way around it.”

Tom Wood

“You have to saddle up every Monday on the back of a disappointment, you have to shake it off because the games just keep on coming. We’ve essentially got a Test match against Leinster and then the Premiership games keep coming.

“It’s amazing really; despite the results the boys are very tight together and that goes through the whole back-room staff and coaches. We genuinely believe in what we are doing.

“There’s no choice, we’ve got to dust ourselves off, pick out whatever positives there are, be really hard ourselves in terms of the errors we’ve made, and hopefully find a way of winning some games. We can build from there.”

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