Despite a run of three agonising last gasp defeats Northampton Saints Director of Rugby Chris Boyd is not wavering in his commitment to running rugby.
When asked if he was tempted to call on the players to adopt a “less risky” style in advance of a home clash with Wasps at the weekend he defiantly doubled down on his belief in an approach that is earning Saints more admirers than wins at the moment.
“I worry that we are too conservative in the back third of the field and don’t take enough opportunity that is presented to us. We’re now moving the game through the middle third of the field quite nicely, we’ve got to get better at both ends of the field and it doesn’t necessarily mean playing less. It might mean playing more,” he said, reflecting on a performance against Gloucester that while dazzling in attack also included some “catastrophic” defensive slip-ups.
This is not a ‘head in the sand’ response. He is asking us to reconsider what we mean by ‘risky rugby’.
“It depends what you think risk is. The try that Tom Collins ultimately scored started from our five metre line but came from three or four passes into space. If you’ve got space you’ve got to use it and I don’t consider that risky play.
“If you ask me what went wrong, we dealt with their maul for the first sixty minutes and then failed to do so at the end. If we are going to be critical of ourselves they scored five tries and only required two rucks to score five tries. We made some catastrophic defensive mistakes. We got a line out horribly wrong at the start of the game.”
It’s no consolation to the staff and players at Saints that it is a fascinating coaching problem. They are a team of master safe-crackers who forget to lock their own front door, or the side gate… or the living room window…
No-one is hurting more than the players after these cruel twists of fate and you need more in your coaching manual than a commandment not to make mistakes. So what do you say?
“When you’ve got a philosophy and an approach to a game the most important thing is that everyone is still rowing the boat in the same direction together. When you have had three or four losses in a row like we have you have got to make sure to check in that: are we still aligned, do we still believe in what we are doing, do we still trust each other to deliver a lot of the parts that are going on? What are the issues, how are we going to deal with them?
“We have actually had a couple of very good conversations in the past couple of weeks around that. To the credit of the players they are incredibly frustrated and disappointed but there is no lip on the ground. You have just got to roll your sleeves up and do it. Everybody wants to win every game don’t they?”
Lock Alex Coles who has put in some dynamic performances at six confirmed how the players are feeling: “It was pretty painful to be honest. We’ve had a few sleepless nights thinking about it. After the game we were just trying to get our heads around it. Boydy said we have got to stay together as a team, you don’t solve these problems by infighting and going at each other. We need to have honest conversations and everyone is accountable. We need to get together and find solutions. The fans aren’t happy about it and neither are we. We want to put some smiles back on faces at the Gardens.”
Saints play Wasps on Sunday at Franklin’s Gardens.