Saints coach West: We haven’t been complacent

Dorian West (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Dorian West (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

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During the 2010/11 season Saints steamrollered their way through Europe.

The sides they played on the way to the Heineken Cup final - Cardiff, Edinburgh, Castres, Ulster and Perpignan - simply couldn’t live with the Northampton pack.

The front row of Soane Tonga’uiha, Dylan Hartley and Brian Mujati, with support from the men beneath them in the pecking order, vanquished many an opposition.

And until tiredness eventually told during the final against Leinster, who inflicted a heartbreaking 33-22 defeat in Cardiff after storming back from a 16-point deficit at the break, Saints’ forward strength looked set to bring them the biggest prize in club rugby.

Fast forward to the current day though, and the forwards are not managing to impose themselves to anywhere near the same degree.

Although they fronted up and matched a monstrous Montpellier team a couple of weeks ago, their nadir was to come in a 41-7 crushing at Castres last Saturday.

Saints were blown away at the breakdown and smashed in the scrum, which is not something they’ve been used to under the tutelage of Dorian West.

The forwards coach was one of the most revered after that incredible Heineken Cup campaign a few years back.

So he is the perfect man to ask just why things didn’t go to plan last weekend and why that Northampton fear factor has faded of late.

“It’s disappointing,” West said.

“We want to be the best, we want to be top of the league.

“We’ve not worked any differently this year.

“We’re working hard, we don’t feel like we’re complacent or taking anything for granted - we’re doing everything we can.

“For whatever reason, we’ve been inconsistent and we need to keep working hard in training to keep improving our skills and our finishing and I’m sure we’ll do well.

“Our scrum went really poorly last week and that was one of the reasons we struggled.

“We’ve worked on stuff this week and hopefully we can get back to our best.”

But why did things go so wrong against Castres in the Stade Pierre Antoine sun?

“It’s hard to say,” West said.

“We went into the game with a good mentality, it felt good and it felt like we were in the right frame of mind to win.

“But if you look at the season as a whole, we’ve played really well on occasion, decent on occasion and we’ve had two really bad games (at Harlequins and Castres) and it’s about trying to pinpoint what makes you play like that.

“We know we weren’t good enough and we need to be improve and win some games.

“We’ve been pretty honest and we’ve worked hard this week to sort it out.”

Saints certainly need to sort it out quickly because a defeat against Gloucester on Friday would turn a poor start to the season into a shocking one.

Jim Mallinder’s men have won just two of their six Aviva Premiership games during this campaign, picking up only 11 points along the way, and they now sit ninth.

And West said: “They’re always a tough side to play against.

“If you’re too loose and you’re open, they’ve got dangerous players in their side who will hurt you.

“We need to work hard on our control, make sure we dictate where the game is played and how it’s played and I’m sure if we do that, we’ll go a long way to winning the match.”