Brookes now in a better place after being angered by his own form at Saints

Kieran Brookes (centre) is bidding to rediscover his best form (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Kieran Brookes (centre) is bidding to rediscover his best form (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

In his first few months at Saints, Kieran Brookes could have been known as the bin man.

That is because he was playing so well that he forced several opponents to head to the sin bin, grinding them into the dirt in the scrum.

But now, the tighthead prop is bidding to bounce back after what he feels has been a rubbish spell of form.

Brookes has held onto the Saints No.3 shirt, keeping Paul Hill and previously Gareth Denman out of the first 15.

But the 27-year-old knows he has got plenty of improving to do and he is desperate to show the Saints supporters, some of whom have been critical of his displays, exactly what he can do.

"The coaches have shown faith in me and they obviously feel I'm the right man for the job so I've just got to show I can do it," said Brookes, who joined Saints from Newcastle Falcons in 2015.

"I was very disappointed with how I played last season.

"I came here in my first season and I felt I was in form.

"I didn't have a very good pre-season last year and I didn't have a very good year.

"I was angry at myself at how I played and I've been working very hard this pre-season, especially on my fitness, especially on running, literally non-stop.

"From pre-season - not necessarily (against Saracens) last week because we didn't get much of the ball and we were chasing shadows a bit - I feel like I'm in a better place than I was last year.

"I've lost a bit of weight, I'm a bit quicker and I'm a lot fitter than I was."

Brookes' honesty about his own form is refreshing and there is certainly no hiding from the front row forward, who has 16 international caps to his name.

He has not represented his country since March, 2016 and he admits losing his England place and suffering a string of injuries has hampered his performances.

"Just coming out of a good pre-season from a World Cup (in 2015), I was in a good place, then being dropped by England and not having the best pre-season last year, I was on a slow downhill," said Brookes.

"I wasn't happy with it so it's time to turn it around and really concentrate on this year.

"It was a bit of everything for me: being dropped by England and not performing very well, my confidence was a bit low, and my fitness did drop off because of injuries I picked up with my knee and stuff.

"But there's no excuses, I've just had to work really hard on my fitness during pre-season and I'm looking forward to showing everyone what I'm actually about."

But all of the hard graft Brookes and his team-mates put in during pre-season counted for nothing last Saturday as they suffered a 55-24 defeat to Saracens at Twickenham.

Jim Mallinder's men shipped seven tries during the first half of the Aviva Premiership opener, and nine in all.

And Brookes said: "Coming from the confidence we got from playing Ulster (in the final pre-season friendly), we're so disappointed.

"It's not what we're about as a club and we're out to rectify it at home to Leicester this weekend.

"No one wants to lose the first game of the season, but it is a long season and there's a lot of time to put it right.

"I love playing here at home, it's a great stadium, a great place to play and all the boys are buzzing for it."

Saints face back-to-back home games in the next two weeks, with Saturday's huge derby clash with Leicester Tigers followed by a Friday night battle with Bath.

And Brookes will hope to keep Hill and new recruit Jamal Ford-Robinson out of the team.

"Jamal's a lovely lad and we get on well," said Brookes of Ford-Robinson, who joined Saints from Bristol this summer.

"But nothing's changed from last year - we're all trying to put pressure on each other to play well and as well as we can.

"It's great for the club to have so much competition in each area of the pitch."