Ribbans bringing England intensity to Saints

David Ribbans laughs heartily when England’s training intensity is mentioned.

By Tom Vickers
Thursday, 24th December 2020, 7:00 am
David Ribbans
David Ribbans

The Saints lock recently linked up with Eddie Jones’ squad for the autumn and though he didn’t get a chance to win his first cap, he got more than a taste of what international life is like.

And it is clear that he has brought those levels back to Saints because although the club continue to lose matches - a run that currently stretches to 12 in a row - Ribbans has been in fine form.

He shone against Bristol Bears, scoring a try that displayed all of his determination.

And he was then hugely influential against Bordeaux on the following weekend, putting in a huge shift in the agonising 16-12 Champions Cup defeat at Franklin’s Gardens.

So just how much has being part of the England picture helped his game, and what was it like?

“I’ve been trying to do the best I can and control what I can control with regards to my performance,” Ribbans said.

“I obviously got a lot of confidence being selected in that England squad and learned a lot there, which I’ve tried to bring to Saints.

“I’m constantly learning and working on things.

“They (Saints’ other England players) are not wrong when they talk about that intensity - that is very good.

“It’s about micro-skills and they pick up on everything you do there.

“Eddie is constantly on you and watching you - his attention to detail is amazing and as a player that’s really what you want.

“It’s a good group at England, they drive standards a lot and it was a good environment to be in.

“It’s competitive but a good environment.”

While Ribbans loved his England experience and clearly wants more in the future, his full focus is now on club rather than country.

Saints are stuck in a rut, in desperate need of points rather than just positives this weekend.

And Ribbans and Co are well aware of the significance of the Boxing Day battle against the side directly above them in the Gallagher Premiership standings.

“We’re positive going into the weekend and we know it’s a massive game,” said the 25-year-old.

“The next three Premiership matches (Saints go to London Irish and host Leicester Tigers after taking on Worcester) are huge for us and our season - we’re all aware of that.

“There have been positives in the past three weeks and obviously we haven’t got the results we wanted.

“Now we need to bring those positives all together and have the full 80-minute performance and get our first win of the season, which is obviously much needed in the group.

“We’re still positive and believe in what we’re doing.

“The boys are ready to go.”

Ribbans was given a rare chance to recharge his batteries last weekend as he was rested for the trip to Dublin, where Saints lost 35-19 to Leinster.

And it was a positive break for the second row forward, who has become a fixture in the Saints first team since arriving from South African outfit Western Province in January 2017.

“I haven’t had any time off since we came back from the first lockdown so I’ve played every game at the end of last season and went straight into the England camp,” Ribbans said.

“It was nice just to have a week off, to get away from rugby and refresh mentally more than anything else.

“Now I’m really excited to be back in the mix and looking forward to the weekend.”

As is the case for so many of Saints’ players who hail from overseas, this Christmas will be a slightly downbeat experience for Ribbans as he won’t be able to see his family who are back in South Africa.

But thankfully for the Somerset West-born star, he has created a new family feel here in Northampton.

Ribbans has struck up a real bond with former Northants cricketer Allan Lamb and his relatives.

And when asked how he will be spending Christmas Day this year, Ribbans said: “It’s a low-key Christmas and I’m going to be in the bubble with my Northampton family, the Lambs - Allan and his family.

“It is disappointing not having family over with these times but it is what it is.”

So how exactly does Ribbans know cricket hero Lamb?

“Allan was hosting a barbeque and Calum Clark, who knew him at the time, said we’d signed a new South African and asked if he could bring me along,” explained RIbbans in an interview with this publication some time ago.

“Allan always wants a South African in his house and that’s where my nickname Ribeye came from - Allan Lamb gave it to me because I ate far too much of their meat. That’s where Ribeye was born and I’ve been going back to his house ever since.

“I’ve met the whole family and they’ve really taken me in and looked after me.

“It’s been great because when I moved here I was only 21 years old and I didn’t have that family feeling away from home but they’ve been there for me.”