Saints ace Haywood primed for key Premiership games
Saints may be heading to Sixways shorn of some international stars, but at least they can call on their current top try scorer to step up in place of their skipper.
With Dylan Hartley away with England, Mike Haywood, who has started three games so far during this campaign, is ready to make his mark yet again.
Haywood has been a key figure for Saints in recent years, scoring timely tries and showing his quality in the role of hooker.
He was the club's top scorer last season and has picked up where he left off this season, using his nous to nip in for four tries.
And he is now hoping to ensure Saints don't miss Hartley this weekend.
"Losing Courts (Courtney Lawes) and Dyls is massive for us, but hopefully I can slot in and cover for Dyls," Haywood said.
"We've got loads of lads pushing for places, as we showed in the Anglo-Welsh Cup.
"It's a bit of a dilemma for the coaches in terms of who they select and hopefully we can get the result at Worcester."
Haywood started for Saints when they won by a single point at Sixways last season.
And he is expecting another nail-biter this weekend.
"I'm looking forward to a tough game," said the 26-year-old, who recently became a father for the first time.
"We know what Worcester are about. They've got a big pack that like to dominate up front.
"We've had close games down there and it's going to be another one this weekend.
"But we've trained really well this week and we're up for the challenge."
Haywood was given a welcome week off recently, getting a breather for Saints' Anglo-Welsh Cup game at Exeter.
Alex Waller and Kieran Brookes have been allowed to sit out both cup games, and Haywood feels the front row will show the benefits of that rest this weekend.
"It's nice to get a bit of time off, and it's the same for Alex Waller and Kieran Brookes," he said.
"We've been doing some scrums this week and they're looking fresh.
"It is massive to get a chance to get away from rugby.
"We had five or six weeks of solid playing so it was nice for me to get a week off, freshen up and then come back with a bang."
Saints will head to Worcester as favourites, with the Warriors having lost all seven of their Aviva Premiership games this season.
But Haywood said: "You can always have one game where it throws up a surprise and they're going to be up for it.
"They're going to be fighting for the game so we've got to make sure every area of the game is on-point.
"We've really worked on our scrum this week because although we were loads better (in the 41-7 win against the Dragons) last week, we felt we could improve.
"We've done a lot on defence this week, loads of tackling, and hopefully we can get a result."
The game at Worcester is the first in a block of three key league games for Saints, who then travel to Sale Sharks before hosting Newcastle Falcons.
And Haywood knows just how important the three battles will be for his side, who have lost their past two Premiership matches.
"It's huge," he said.
"We're sitting sixth at the moment and there are four teams on 20 points with the top only on 28.
"It's not like we're out of it at all so if we can get three wins from the next three games, it pushes us up there.
"We want to be in that top four spot."