After a few years away from the top, are Northampton starting to look like a title winning side again?
It’s a tough act, following a coach who’s been at a club for ten years. A coach under whom the club won the Premiership and got to the final of the European Cup. A club which since then has been in steady decline and just endured its worst-ever losing run with nine defeats out of nine.
This was the task facing Chris Boyd when he took charge of Northampton Saints as Director of Rugby in January of last year. Following Jim Mallinder – a figure almost universally loved by fans and players, who had seen them rise to the top and then seen them slowly descend into the wilderness of mid-table and below – Boyd had a task on his hands to quell that slump and create a winning atmosphere amongst the Saints’ players.
This weekend seems to have proved he was successful in doing that. Running in an emphatic five-try 36-13 win against Leicester Tigers, Northampton now sit pretty at the top of the Gallagher Premiership Table with 19 points and – notably – 20 tries from just five games.
Speaking after the match, Boyd was very clear as to what has led a squad made up mostly of the same players experience such a transformation in performance.
“Most people can execute skills,” he said, “but we really challenge them to execute with no time and space. So we put them under an extreme pressure in pre-season to try to execute their skills accurately. Some of it looked pretty horrible but you’ve got to allow them to make those mistakes to grow and get better.
“So often the intention around our training sessions is not about being error-free but challenging you to make your skills as good as they can be under pressure. It’s not always going to happen but at the moment it’s going OK.”
Northampton’s fortunes seem to be turning and Boyd’s new approach seems to be fundamental in that. It should be pleasant for all to see – Leicester fans included – a club that was once in decline find its feet at the top of the Premiership.
By Will Sewell.