'Hungry and slightly tanned' Saints ready for Bristol battle

Saints are 'hungry and slightly tanned' as they get ready to set the record straight at Franklin's Gardens this afternoon (kick-off 3pm).

By Tom Vickers
Sunday, 16th February 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Sunday, 16th February 2020, 10:46 am
Matt Ferguson
Matt Ferguson

The black, green and gold return to action against Bristol Bears following a three-week break.

And Saints have a point to prove on home soil after suffering a disappointing 20-16 defeat to London Irish at the Gardens on January 24.

They will have their work cut out this weekend as Pat Lam's Bristol are one of the rising forces in England's top division.

And Saints assistant coach Matt Ferguson said: "The rest and recovery was very much needed in that first week when we were all off site.

"We came back in with that real desire to right some of the things that happened in our last performance.

"It means we've got a hungry and slightly tanned group of rugby players.

"From a coaching group, we dispersed to various parts of the world but we were sharing messages well into that first week of our thoughts, feelings and frustrations from that game.

"It's not a surprise that if you're five or 10 per cent off your game in this league, you're going to lose.

"We knew we had to perform better than we did and we got what we deserved."

Saints currently sit second in the standings, one point behind leaders Exeter and seven ahead of fifth-placed Bristol.

The Bears, like Saints, have played some hugely entertaining rugby this season.

And Ferguson said: "They're the team that is most likely to play the way we try to play, with their wide game and ball in hand.

"But they've also got a set of forwards that can control the ball.

"Every game in the Premiership is going to challenge you in one way or another, and it's pretty obvious how Bristol are going to challenge us.

"They've challenged a number of teams in the same way this season."

Saints won four successive games in all competitions before two late tries earned London Irish a shock win in Northampton last month.

And Ferguson says having a break after that disappointing defeat was good for everyone at the Gardens.

"One of the things you can do in the break is you can take out some of the emotion of Monday morning reviews," Ferguson explained.

"If we'd have been in a normal process, we'd have played Friday night, been off Saturday, Sunday and then come in on Monday to review the Irish game.

"That would mean there was still emotional attachment to it, but when you go and disperse for a week, you come in a week later and you can look at it through a slightly different lens.

"It's been good for us because if we're totally honest, we probably haven't been playing our best rugby through January.

"There have been two or three per cent drop-offs in parts of our game and what the break allowed us to do was to reflect on those.

"Boydy (Saints boss Chris Boyd) is massive on results being based from performance, and we certainly don't believe Saints have performed well enough in the past four or five games.

"In some of those games we escaped, like we did at Wasps, where we got a last-minute win.

"If you were looking at our performances, you'd probably say that Irish game was around the corner.

"So what we've done is looked at it with a fresh lens, fresh bodies and fresh minds and we've trained really well in what have been pretty testing conditions this week."