Final-day saga now a distant memory as Francis and Saints go to Gloucester

The record books show that Saints have lost their past four matches at Kingsholm - and they didn’t even score a point in the most recent one!

Piers Francis
Piers Francis

However, that fixture, the final-day meeting of the 2019/20 season back in October, didn’t actually happen.

A 20-0 defeat was dished out to Saints after they were forced to forfeit the game following contact with a Sale Sharks squad who registered 27 positive Covid-19 tests.

Saints had faced Sale just a few days earlier and it was to be rough justice for Chris Boyd’s side as they could not fulfil the Gloucester game due to not having an available front row.

Piers Francis was one of the men hit by Covid after the brush with Sale, and he spent time in bed recovering, missing an England camp, as Saints’ season ended in a complete shambles.

It was through no fault of their own and Francis insists it is all just ‘a distant memory’ now.

But there is no doubt that they will be keen to set their Kingsholm record straight this Saturday, having not won there since January 2017.

"The allocation of points was pretty new at the time we had that Gloucester game last season and it was just a shame we had to miss out last match of the campaign," Francis said.

"But it’s all a distant memory now if I’m honest and we’re just excited about playing a competitive match at the weekend for the first time in a while.

"We want to get into a bit of a rhythm of playing at the weekends and training during the week to gear up for matches."

Saints will be playing at an eerily silent Kingsholm this weekend as oppose to turning out in front of the traditionally vocal supporters in The Shed.

Francis said: "Every team that plays at home relies on a good crowd and we’re very much in that boat because a packed Gardens is something to behold.

"We’re getting used to playing in front of no fans at the moment though and I’m not sure it will be too different at Kingsholm this weekend."

Saints have not played a competitive encounter since beating Worcester Warriors at Franklin’s Gardens on Boxing Day.

But the black, green and gold did have an inter-squad clash last week.

"We did our training using what weights we could when we were at home (when the training ground was closed due to the recent Covid-19 outbreak)," Francis said.

"We kept physically right and we’ve been back in the club for a couple of weeks now.

"The start of the week is about testing and staying socially distant and then the rest of the week looks more simple.

"We had a worthwhile hit-out in an internal game here at the Gardens and now we’ve got the chance to look forward to Gloucester.

"The internal game was full game mode, we have pretty heavy training weeks and Boydy decided it would be a good exercise, which I believe it was.

"It’s something a bit different, playing in a game rather than training.

"It was full noise, a good hit-out and I’m still pretty sore from it!"

This weekend’s clash with Gloucester will be Saints’ first match of 2021.

And Francis is setting himself some simple goals ahead of the new year of action.

"My personal goals are to stay healthy and put my best performances out there on the weekend if picked," said the 30-year-old.

"I wouldn’t say my aims change.

"I’m hugely motivated to be playing at a high level, week in, week out."