Saints prop Waller: Tigers clash will show where we're at
As captain for the day this weekend, Alex Waller would normally be called upon to offer some words of dressing room wisdom.
But you get the feeling that he won’t be required to do too much talking ahead of today's game against Leicester Tigers.
That is because Saints have all the incentive they need to defeat their nearest and not so dearest.
Tigers come to town boasting an unbeaten record in the Gallagher Premiership this season, winning each of their opening six matches.
And with cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens set to be packed to the rafters - the club confirmed this fixture had sold out earlier in the week - the noise levels will be high.
So for Waller and Co, the fuel will very much be on the fire without any words of inspiration being needed.
“I’m not sure how many I’ve done now but I’ve done a fair few and I’ve loved every single one of them,” said Waller, who has 22 derby-day appearances to his name.
“These are proper games and there is obviously a bit of edge added into a derby day at home here.
“We’re fired up, ready for it.
“They’re unbeaten and top of the table and it doesn’t get much better.
“We had a little slip-up against Wasps but hopefully we’ve put stuff right and it’s going to be a pretty good clash.
“It’s a good test to see where we’re at.
“They’re unbeaten so it’s probably one of their best starts in a long time and we’re doing pretty well ourselves.
“These are the kind of games you want to see.
“In the past couple of seasons they have a bit of a dip in form but before that they were the team on top.
“Now it’s more of a level playing field and it will be interesting to see where we’re at.
“We’re confident we can pull out the victory if we play to our best and they’ll be thinking the same.”
But while Waller knows how well Tigers have started the season, that is not his primary concern.
He is more interested in focusing on what Saints have done wrong and right while picking up four wins from their five matches so far.
“I’m not too concerned about where they are or what they’re doing,” Waller said.
“Fair play to them they’re doing well but we’re going pretty well ourselves.
“We lost concentration against Wasps and hopefully that’s the shot in the arm we needed to sharpen up.
“We want to be in a semi-final and final eight months down the line.
“We’ve got a really good squad here.
“I was looking at the team being announced when we were warming up against Worcester and we’ve got so much talent.
“We’ve got the likes of Sleights (Ollie Sleightholme), Tommy Freeman.
“We used to talk about Hutch (Rory Hutchinson) as a prospect but now he’s a serious player with experience under his belt at international level.
“We’ve got a real good mix of experience and youth, and that youth has got a couple of years under the belt playing in the Premiership.”
Waller has played in all five of Saints’ game so far this season, starting three of them.
And he is feeling good about his own form.
“Personally I’m really happy with how things are going,” said the 31-year-old, who has racked up 307 Saints appearances.
“Myself, Nick (Auterac), Manny (Iyogun) and Hobbsy (Danny Hobbs-Awoyemi) have got a really good relationship and we’re working well together.
“We’re sharing the workload, it’s a really long season and quite attritional.
“Being able to rotate and not having that much difference is important for the strength in depth.
“We’re in a good place and long may that continue.
“The season is long and things will happen, people will pick up knocks but hopefully we keep as many boys fit as we can.”
Waller holds a Premiership record for making the most consecutive appearances in league history, but he enjoyed the recent bye week as it allowed he and his team-mates to recharge their batteries.
“I had Christian Day around my house before the Worcester game last week because he was doing some of the corporate work and we had a chat about the bye weeks and how they would have been appreciated in years gone by,” Waller said.
“If I could have one of them every four weeks, that would be great.
“They’re great for the body and the mental freshness.
“I’ve done both ends of the spectrum, playing every game in a season and then being injured and not playing at all.
“I know some people aren’t too happy with having a 13-team league but it’s great to develop a higher quality game if boys can have a couple of weeks off in the season.
“It’s a good thing, the game’s attritional and to have a week off where you step back mentally and physically.
“Long may bye weeks continue.”