"He probably knows me as the naughty lad from his French lessons" - Grayson enjoying Vass reunion at Saints

James Grayson
James Grayson

James Grayson is used to being taught by Ian Vass.

And the Saints fly-half is already enjoying his reunion with the new defence coach at Saints.

"He was actually a supply teacher at NSB (Northampton School for Boys) when I first met Vassy, so he probably knows me as the naughty lad from his French lessons," Grayson said.

"He spent a bit of time at Stade Francais when he was pretty young in his career so he obviously learned a bit of French out there.

"When he was at Bedford, he did some part-time teaching as PE cover and French cover so he was my French teacher occasionally."

"He's been good (since joining Saints), he's implemented some new stuff and everyone's bought into it so it's been nice and refreshing.

"It's new ideas, a new voice, he's been away at Montpellier and learned his craft in a difficult environment because the French sometimes don't like to defend so he's had to work hard over there.

"Coming here, he's been a breath of fresh air and a new voice that we can buy into."

Vass watched training at Franklin's Gardens for the first time before the London Irish game last month.

But he didn't officially start work until last week, having completed his move back to England from France.

And Vass is now tasked with helping Saints to marry up their razor-sharp attacking game with real resilience in defence.

The black, green and gold were seeking a successor to Alan Dickens following his move to become England Under-20s head coach at the end of November.

And Saints will hope Vass can have an instant impact as they bid to bounce back from a shock 20-16 home defeat to Irish last time out.

"It was disappointing," said Grayson, who started the January 24 Gallagher Premiership game with Dan Biggar rested.

"Obviously we didn't play as well as we wanted to, the (Api Ratuniyarawa) red card didn't help us and we didn't control periods of the game that we needed to.

"It left us with a sour taste and I know personally that I've not really stopped thinking about it over the past few weeks and I'm sure the same goes for the rest of the boys.

"We're champing at the bit to get back out there and put it right.

"Bristol obviously come here on Sunday as an in-form side. They've beaten Gloucester and some other good sides so they are dangerous.

"They throw the ball around and cause teams trouble.

"We're upset about how we performed in front of our fans against London Irish but we're champing at the bit to put it right."

Grayson was up against his former mentor, Stephen Myler, when Saints met Irish last month.

And he said: "I had a beer with Stephen. It was just nice to catch up with him.

"You chat about rugby for five minutes and then it's on to whatever else you're doing at the moment, talking about family and all that sort of stuff.

"You talk about rugby all week so you try to get away from that as quickly as you can."

Since Myler's departure, Grayson has been afforded plenty of opportunities in the Saints 10 shirt.

And he will get plenty more over the next few weeks with Biggar still on Six Nations duty.

"It's one of those ones periods you pencil in over the season," said Grayson, who has made 42 appearances for Saints, with 31 of them coming during the past two campaigns.

"You're 95 per cent sure Dan's going to be away so you're going to get an opportunity.

"It's another chance for me and hopefully a step in the right direction for me.

"I want to push this team up the table."

Sunday's big battle against Bristol is followed by clashes with Exeter Chiefs, Saracens and Worcester Warriors before a weekend off in the middle of March.

And Grayson said: "It's four big games for us.

"Boydy (Saints boss Chris Boyd) sometimes talks about two or three games as Test matches and it's just ramped up a little bit.

"We're going into this week full bore.

"We've prepared well, had a slightly longer week and it's allowed us to get more detail into Vassy's defence.

"It's going to be full on come Sunday and we can't wait really."

So what are second-placed Saints expecting from Sunday's game against a Bristol team who currently sit fifth in the standings, seven points behind Boyd's boys?

"I'm not sure the 60mph winds and rain is suggesting it will be the most free-flowing game, but we're preparing for it as we do every game," Grayson said.

"We've worked on our basics and our set piece and we'll prepare as though we can chuck the ball around.

"We know we've got a back-up game plan if we need to kick the corners and apply the pressure that way.

"It's two good teams and hopefully an exciting game for the fans to watch.

"I'm just hoping we can get it right and come out on top."