Communication key as Gaffney gets Saints moving forward

Alan Gaffney saw Saints beat Gloucester last Saturday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Alan Gaffney saw Saints beat Gloucester last Saturday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Alan Gaffney has held 'explicit and honest' meetings with members of the Saints squad in a bid to improve the team's performance on the pitch.

The Australian has been drafted in on a deal as coaching consultant until the end of the season and oversaw a 22-19 win against Gloucester in his first game in charge.

Gaffney has opened a clear line of communication with the squad in a bid to help them get back on form following a run of 12 defeats from 13 matches prior to last Saturday's success.

The 71-year-old has taken players aside individually to canvass their views as well as talking to the squad as a group.

And he said: "It's been very important. It's about assessing where the club is as a whole and areas we can improve.

"It hasn't just been senior players, young players are involved in it as well and I've asked them to be explicit and honest with me.

"What they tell me stays in the room we're in and then we'll try to implement some of the things they've talked to me about.

"Some things we may not even agree with, but it doesn't matter, we can then go back to them with a way forward."

Gaffney has sensed a spring in the step of the Saints players following last weekend's win, which came courtesy of a late penalty try.

"It was a huge thing for them," he said.

"The players had a good night on Saturday, totally within limits, and then they all fronted up to do work the next day or on the Monday.

"They've done the work this week and no one's resting on their laurels.

"A lot of the senior players have stood up and said 'we've got to understand that we didn't play that well'.

"I don't think the players needed to be told we weren't great by any stretch of the imagination - they're the first people to admit that.

"We made a lot of mistakes last Saturday, but the commitment got us home.

"We know we've got to be better because we're going into the next two rounds of Champions Cup rugby against two of the powerhouses (Clermont Auvergne and Saracens).

"They're both very good teams so we've got to perform.

"We're playing against one of the terrific French sides on Saturday.

"They might not be going that well in the French championship (Clermont are 10th), but they're going very well in this pool.

"They've got very strong players across the board and we know it's going to be some battle this weekend."

Saints host Clermont on Saturday evening, with the Top 14 team leading the way in Pool 2.

Northampton have nothing but pride and momentum to play for having only claimed one point from their opening four group games.

But Gaffney said: "We'll be going strong at the weekend.

"We're treating it as though we're still alive in the competition and we've just got to go and try to win both games.

"We've got to perform for the home crowd and ourselves.

"We've got a bit of momentum from last weekend, but it's only a little bit.

"We've got to now take the next step.

"We're going out to win the game but at worst we've got to put in a good performance.

"It's about process over result and I am that way inclined. Unless we get the process right, we'll rarely get the result.

"We've got to understand how we're going to improve as a team over the next four months and once we get there, you'll find a steady improvement in what we're doing."