The gods of rugby pulled a new cruel twist out of their playbook when an historic victory in the East Midlands derby cost Saints captain Rob Horne his career.
The impact of his injury – nerve damage to his arm as he went in to tackle just 13 seconds into the game – has been seismic.
Rob and his young family came to Northampton this season. Despite all the Saints on pitch troubles he managed to look like the missing piece in a back line that has been finding its feet.
He was keeping his head while all about him people were losing theirs – an impressive enough trick for a veteran but an outstanding achievement for a new kid on the block.
Captaincy for the Leicester game was the natural next step.
The feeling among team-mates preparing to go to Wasps on Sunday is “raw”.
Interim Head Coach Alan Dickens said: “It was broken to the squad by Matt Lee the head physio here, it was a pretty sombre. A lot of players were dumbounded.
“We’re devastated at the club with what has happened and Rob having to end his career at the age of 28. Our focus at the moment is to support Rob through this transitional period of his life.
“I cannot speak highly enough of what he did in the build up to the Leicester game, the coaches were unanimous in wanting him to captain the team for the game. He galvanised the squad.
“I’ve said a number of times this year I can’t ask any more of the players. They have been pretty tight. Rob Horne has been part of that group, he is one of their mates, when your mates get injured in that way it affects everyone.”
Piers Francis will be lining up alongside Luther Burrell on Sunday.
He said: “It’s a very tough situation, and one I wouldn’t want to bestow on anybody, for a top guy like Rob it’s even harder for him to swallow. I was massively enjoying my time with him, I was learning from him, the experience he has, the little nuances, I’m going to massively miss him.
“He was hugely influential, he was one guy but he was hugely influential on the result in Leicester, he was named captain for the week and he got us ready and in a good position and good preparation for the week. The result we got out of that was full credit to him. The kind of stuff I’ve had from him and learned from him, particularly in defence, it’s a tough situation.
“We’ve been to see him, he is dealing with it now with his family. From a playing group we are very much there for him, whatever we can do, whether that is give him some space, it’s a very tough situation.
“Pretty much the whole squad has been to see him, showing the love and I believe he knows that. It is still very fresh.”
The team for Sunday is:
15 Ahsee Tuala
14 Ben Foden (capt)
13 Luther Burrell
12 Piers Francis
11 George North
10 Stephen Myler
9 Cobus Reinach
1 Alex Waller
2 Mikey Haywood
3 Paul Hill
4 Api Ratuniyarawa
5 James Craig
6 Jamie Gibson
7 Teimana Harrison
8 Mitch Eadie
16 Charlie Clare
17 Campese Ma’afu
18 Ehren Painter
19 Alex Moon
20 Heinrich Brüssow
21 Alex Mitchell
22 James Grayson
23 Tom Collins