Another European mission awaits for Saints' band of brothers

Alex Moon
Alex Moon

This weekend in Lyon, Saints' band of brothers will embark on another European mission.

Many of the men who will be wearing Northampton colours have grown up together, coming through the club's Academy to forge careers in the first team.

Among them is 23-year-old lock Alex Moon, who explains what it means to him to be able to call many members of the team close mates.

"When you look at the room list and you're rooming with one of your best mates for a couple of nights, it's class," said Ipswich-born Moon, a former Sedbergh School pupil.

"It's almost like being back at school.

"Being a boarding school lad, you're used to living with someone in the same room all the time and it's great.

"Some of the boys here I've grown up with since I was 14, 15 and last year I went to Clermont away to play a game with (George) Furbank, who I've been playing cricket and rugby with since I was 13, 14 years old.

"Little things like that are class and it's what's quite unique about us because we're a young crop who have grown up together.

"We've all come through in the past few years, we've lived in each other's pockets, we've all done the Academy together and everyone's stepped up when they've had a chance.

"It's enabled us to stay together and it's great."

So which of Saints' Academy graduates often stick together when the team plays abroad?

"Tom Collins and Rory Hutchinson, even though sometimes they may be split up, they'll always find each other again," Moon said.

"Tei (Teimana Harrison) and Luds (Lewis Ludlam), the two gamers who stay up quite late together, they tend to room together.

"When you go away you like your routine so you try to make it as similar as possible to every away game.

"Boys tend to try to room with the same people all of the time."

So who does Moon room with?

"Whoever the unlucky individual is," he said, laughing.

"I'm a bit of a snorer, it's not great so I must be the one person who you look on the team list as the other person is like 'oh, I've got to room with Moony'.

"But unlucky for them, I sleep well so I'm alright."

The close-knit nature of the Saints squad is undoubtedly a key reason for their ability to enjoy success.

They currently sit second in the Gallagher Premiership and occupy the same position in Champions Cup Pool 1.

It means Chris Boyd's side have a real chance of booking a quarter-final place this weekend, knowing a win in Lyon would really further their aim of earning a best runners-up spot.

"We've got to look to get five points and if and when we secure that we can start looking at the maths of who's in the losing three spots," Moon said.

"But we're trying not to really think about all that - it's about looking at Lyon and doing all we can to get five points out of that because it's all we can control.

"One of our goals was to get into the knockout stages and then knockout rugby is so on the day, you can't really predict it.

"Getting into the knockout stages was one of our season goals and then you take every game as it comes when you get there.

"To be in with a chance of getting there without playing particularly well - you wouldn't think the side that lost twice to Leinster would get there - it shows we've got the resolve.

"We managed to grind out a win at Benetton in November and we still managed to win against them last weekend after playing terribly in the first half.

"It shows the character we've got."

Saints are set to be backed by a big travelling support this weekend.

There was an army of black, green and gold fans at the game against Benetton in Treviso in November, when Saints snatched a late 35-32 win.

And the impressive support was also in evidence closer to home a couple of weeks ago as the Saints fans roared their team to a last-gasp 35-31 success against Wasps in Coventry.

"For the Benetton game, I think we had more fans in the stadium than they did!" Moon said. "It does mean a lot to us.

"The moment you start hearing your own chants in the stadium it does give you a buzz.

"I know Lyon is going to be bouncing because they get great support and I'm sure we'll be able to pick out some Saints fans among them.

"Wasps had a good support the other week at the Ricoh but our own fans created an atmosphere there and it was class.

"If you have such tight games and you don't have that support, do you win those games?

"We scored points to win those games in the last couple of minutes and if you don't have that support are you winning those tight matches?

"It shows it's really valuable."