Front row 'monsters' not the main priority for Saints

Matt Ferguson is enjoying his role at Saints (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Matt Ferguson is enjoying his role at Saints (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Matt Ferguson insists Saints have enough quality to improve their scrum in the weeks and months to come.

And the assistant coach insists that even if they had a front row 'monster' in their ranks, they may not select him due to the slick attacking style boss Chris Boyd is trying to implement.

Saints have been steady on their own ball this season, but they have been troubled when the likes of Clermont Auvergne, Leicester Tigers and, last Sunday, Wasps have had the put-in.

However, Ferguson, who was drafted in as scrum guru during the summer, believes there is enough quality in his pack to stamp their authority on top teams.

And he has outlined how the Saints forwards are trying to play this season.

"If you look at our game stats, you'll see the amount of work Alex Waller does in the loose - double-figure tackles most weeks - and Franksy (Ben Franks) makes multiple catch-passes," Ferguson said.

"You have to look at what our whole game is like.

"Yes, we can look at the quality of the Clermont front row but I'm not sure they touched the ball outside of scrums. Did that get them the result? Well, they won five scrum penalties that played a part in it.

"It's up to me to make sure I up-skill the players to do both parts of the games because even if we had a monster here who couldn't catch, pass and defend, I'm not sure we'd select them anyway because of the way Chris and Sam (Vesty) want the whole picture to work.

"Do I believe we've got the cattle in the pen to improve our work on the opposition ball in the Premiership? Absolutely - and we're two months into doing it."

And he added: "During the summer I spoke about the ingredients and how the scrum was going to work and it's different to how it's been over the past five or six years where Saints had a dominant scrum.

"We want it to be something we can launch from, maybe getting our No.8 into holes or allowing our back three to expose space out wide and I think we've done that in all the games we've played.

"But when the opposition have the scrum and they don't want to use it to launch, it becomes a wrestle and if you're a little bit off in terms of technique or size against Clermont or Leicester, you're going to pay for that, and that's the bit we're tweaking.

"It's also about the perception of referees and the pictures we're painting in their mind."

Saints have placed plenty of faith in young players this season, with several Academy products being given a chance to perform as part of the pack.

The likes of Ehren Painter and Lewis Ludlam have seized their chance, and Ferguson is revelling in the development of the youngsters.

"When I was asked at the start about how excited I was about working with (James) Haskell, Franks and others I went back and said the likes of Reece Marshall, Ehren Painter and Toby Trinder excite me more because they've got the biggest amount of development in them," Ferguson said.

"We put Ehren Painter out to play Clermont in a European game and it's a huge credit to him.

"There's a whole crop of young front rowers, including some Academy boys who I worked with recently, and we've got a real strength in depth in that area."

Ferguson arrived at Saints having had experience of working with the likes of London Irish and England's women's team.

And he is enjoying everything about his new role.

"I'm loving being part of the club," he said.

"Everyone told me what a great place it was to work at and it's been outstanding.

"Coming out here for home games with the support we get has been great.

"It's probably been a mixed bag in terms of the performances we've produced and our work around scrum time, but I'm really enjoying where we are with stuff."