Feet are being firmly kept on the ground as Northampton Saints prepare for one of their season defining fixtures with the return of Leicester Tigers to Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday.
The derby battle helped decide the outcome of the league at the end of last season with Saints surprising many in the wider world of rugby by being a tough semi-final hurdle for Tigers on their way to the Premiership title.
But if you ask coach Sam Vesty how much Saints can take from that bittersweet encounter his answer is pretty no nonsense.
“We lost – that is the most important thing to come out of it,” said Vesty “We did some really good things but there were some things we didn’t quite take advantage of. On a different day it could have been slightly different.
“Our game plan and our game style works when we do it very well against what they are trying to do. We have got to make sure we do our plan aggressively. There are so many little bits that make it tick, but we have been working on those little bits as far as the attacking side of it goes for a good few years so we know what that looks like. Taking opportunities is obviously key and defensively we have got to stop their momentum. You stop their momentum you will get the ball back.”
Having said that the Leicester derby is one of those magical encounters with a result that stands out to fans on its own. It can put the shine on or take the shine off a season and fans will see it as a marker of Saints progress irrespective of other results. The game has almost sold out so a good atmosphere is highly likely.
“It’s a big game and I know the fans absolutely love it but we have got to focus on performance and that’s where our thoughts are,” said Sam.
“We have talked about it. Luds talked very passionately about it in one meeting but it doesn’t help us win one lineout or make one tackle. We have talked about it but we want to focus on performance because if we perform well we will win.”
One piece of good news is that the win against London Irish was achieved without a clutch of internationals such as Courtney Lawes, Lewis Ludlam and Dan Biggar. Their rest period is now over and they are back in the mix for selection, posing coaches some good problems.
“Getting those really good players back is really good. They are such a great addition to our squad. They are hungry to play. They have not played rugby for a well documented ten weeks and they are hungry. They want to play rugby. It has been tough calls. It is where we want to be. Our squad is competitive across a number of positions and fighting for positions keeps everyone hungry.”
The match kicks off at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday at 3pm.