Boyd has his say at Saints' season ticket holders' forum

On Tuesday evening, Saints hosted their season ticket holders' forum online for the second year in succession.

By Tom Vickers
Wednesday, 14th April 2021, 12:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th April 2021, 12:46 pm
Chris Boyd
Chris Boyd

Chairman John White, CEO Mark Darbon, director of rugby Chris Boyd and co-captains Alex Waller and Lewis Ludlam were all in the firing line when it came to questions from the fans.

There was plenty of discussion about on and off-field matters, and we've picked out all of the key points from what Boyd said here...

Has the pandemic changed the strategy of how you build your squad?

"We currently have pretty much the smallest senior squad in the competition, we have the youngest squad in the competition and we have the most English squad in the competition. All of those things we're proud of, but we are only proud of them if they equal performance.

"The No.1 priority for us is performance that gives us outcome and we're not there yet.

"We're a development club, not a contract club.

"Of course there will be times we have a hole in our roster that we can't fill from our homegrown players and we'll still have some marquee players, I'm sure.

"But our preference is to be homegrown. Young, English, high potential is our mantra.

"Everybody's squads have gone down and you have to supplement your senior squad with your Academy.

"Our ability to have Academy players that can legitimately be good enough to be No.3 or No.4 at a position saves us an incredible amount of human resource and financial resource.

"I think bigger Academy and smaller squads is definitely the mantra for this league right now."

It has been noticeable that you have changed the way you use the scrum in recent times...

"It's definitely been a learning for me.

"It defines part of the difference between the game in the northern hemisphere and the game in the southern hemisphere.

"We've certainly had a more aggressive policy around our scrum, using it not simply as a restart mechanism but as a weapon.

"Credit to (scrum coach) Matt Ferguson and his merry bunch of men up front - they're now creating a different set of opportunities for us.

"It was a learning for me and it's been embraced by the team.

"We want to keep it in check, we don't want it to go rampant and wild, but we're certainly very happy with that part of our game."

What changed your mind on that?

"It was probably pressure from Ferg - I had to give him a chance to go a different way.

"It's an evolution."

How do you feel about the strategic partnership between Saints and Bedford Blues?

"It's been a fantastic arrangement for us.

"We're averaging between nine and 12 players in the 23 for Bedford on a regular basis, which means the guys who are not lucky enough to play for Saints, particularly our youngsters, are getting a good level of football.

"One of the biggest challenges all countries across most sports are finding is getting a platform for players to play on.

"Bedford's been wonderful for our players to learn about skill execution under pressure and they've been very pleased with how it's been going.

"It's pretty hard on some of those youngsters because they train with us on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and they train with Bedford on a Tuesday and a Thursday night so it's a well beaten path, but they know it's a critical part of their development.

"It's such a good link and it's been great."

How impressed have you been with Nick Isiekwe?

"He's played well for us and he's a good footballer.

"We haven't once had a situation where all our locks and all our loose forwards are available at the same time and it would be extremely interesting where the selection would go if they were.

"Nick can play in the second row and the back row, as can Courtney Lawes so we're well blessed in that space.

"Nick has done a good job and he complements Lewis Ludlam and Teimana Harrison, who are different players.

"We've got Karl Wilkins coming back to Northampton (this summer) and he's a similar type of player to Nick.

"We've enjoyed Nick but we knew at the time we took him on that it was a one-year gig.

"If Saracens didn't get promoted, I think we'd ask the question (about keeping him) but we'll see how we go."

Have you started to train with the team down to 13 and 14 players after being hit by six yellow cards over the past two matches?

"Being the superstitious beast I am, last Thursday a portion of our training was with only 13 men on the field and I'll never do it again because I brought bad karma to the game.

"Yes, we do talk about it and we do train it, but all you need to do is be philosophically aligned.

"The trickiest thing is around scrum defence if you're short one or two guys.

"We do loosely talk about it, we don't spend a massive amount of time on it and we've just got to give away less."

What have you learned during the pandemic?

"The information we got is that Northampton Saints as an organisation led the way in terms of the way they handled the pandemic with their players and their staff and with the support of their fans.

"We haven't done as much winning on the field as we'd have liked but what has stood out to me is that this club is a rock solid, proper rugby club that has got good people in it that care deeply about the organisation and is supported by people who also care deeply about the organisation.

"That is not replicated at many clubs, where there has been friction between various people, so this pandemic has highlighted to me 100 per cent that this is a proper rugby club and I'm proud to be part of the organisation."

Do you feel your non-English players have contributed as much as you would have liked?

"They will always be under the spotlight and it's worse in France than it is in England.

"If the club's doing well, the club gets the kudos, and if the club's doing badly, the foreign players generally get the fingers pointed at them.

"We've got a mixed bag there. I don't think all of our foreign players have reached their potential so we talk internally about trying to get our performance curve as close to our potential as we can.

"The level you're currently playing at and you're potential is the performance gap.

"Some of those players haven't played as well as I'd have hoped, some have played better.

"We've just been lucky that across the board, where one person has struggled with form, another has stepped up and done a decent job. That's what teams are about.

"I'm not 100 per cent satisfied with anything that's going on in the rugby at the moment and the output from the foreign players need to be better, as does everything else."

What do you make of the new intake of Academy players?

"The five boys who have come into the Academy this year as first-year players are all capable of playing 100 games plus for the Saints.

"I have a strong feeling that all of those boys are going to be keepers."

You've been a long way from home for some time now. What's kept you going this season?

"The biggest thrill for me is that finally I became a grandfather two days ago and I do miss being with the wee fella and the rest of the family.

"But I actually think it's remarkable that we had a pandemic and a dreadful run of form - and we can't hide from the fact we lost a lot of games in a row and got ourselves in a hole - and I reflect with a lot of pride that there was complete stability from the board right down to the players.

"I know there was some social media outcry and I understand all that, but I didn't see any cracks in the organisation when we had the double whammy of a pandemic and a poor run of form.

"The fact everyone stayed aligned during that time is remarkable really."