The big interview: Lee Radford talks to Tom Vickers ahead of Saints' trip to Bristol

Lee Radford (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)Lee Radford (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Lee Radford (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
If you think it's been difficult to predict Saints' team selection in recent weeks, imagine being a coach trying to guess the opposition line-ups.

However, for new Saints defence coach Lee Radford, ignorance has been bliss.

He instead prefers to focus more on the players in his power than the ones they will come up against.

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He explained: "For me it's great because I don't know many of the (opposition) players anyway genuinely.

"What it does is give me a chance to focus on us and some coaches are that way anyway.

"Other coaches are 90 per cent yourself, 10 per cent the opposition, some are 60/40, some are 50/50.

"It's how you go about your business.

"Where we're at at the moment is in the process of changing habits and that is very much about us rather than what the opposition are going to throw at us.

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"If we get our systems right and our bits of detail right in our fundamentals then whatever they throw at you, you should be able to handle."

In terms of those habits that he wants to change, Radford spoke in depth about the mindset aspect of defence.

He said: "Mindset is big because I'm almost asking people to change habits of a 10-year career.

"It's repetition, repetition, repetition and constantly reminding people that this is how it should be done and this is how we're doing it at the moment.

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"I'm under no illusion that it might take a while for those habits to become the norm, and you fall into your bad habits when you're under fatigue so you've got that to contend with as well.

"If we can change that from an early age, you'll see in the likes of Archie (McParland) and Henry (Pollock) some real development there."

Radford and his fellow Saints coaches have had a big task on their hands to try to prepare the senior squad for the build-up to the Premiership campaign while many young players are selected for pre-season and cup games.

"There's a real fine balance this time of the year in the cup that we're playing in between exposure for the young fellas and making sure some senior blokes wear some bruises prior to the season starting," Radford said.

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"It's always a balancing act and sometimes you get it right, sometimes you get it wrong.

"The closer you get to the start of the season, you want to filter your top squad and drip-feed them in, but you've got to bear in mind you've got a 20-week run of games at elite level.

"Phil (Dowson) has obviously put a lot of thought into that and hopefully we can hit the ground running."

But how do you instill your defensive ideas in the senior players when they are not the ones playing matches at the weekend?

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"Ultimately what's going to have the biggest impact on us as a club, is making sure your fundamentals are right, whether you're playing for the Under-16s or the first team for Northampton," Radford said.

"If you can tweak those fundamentals and get those better, we stand a better chance of winning games of rugby.

"Whether we're coaching 15-year-olds or 33-year-olds, I believe there are some fundamental things you've got to get right defensively and if we can do that, we can be better as a club."

Radford openly admits he is still learning the intricacies of rugby union, having come across from league, in which he was a player and coach.

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But the work needed to do that is not something that fazes the 44-year-old.

"I’ve been a bit of a geek from day one so even when I was playing, I was coaching an amateur team as well,” Radford said.

"Not only was I a full-time professional, I was training three nights a week with East Hull and then going away on a weekend around the north of England.

"I promised my wife back then that I would become a coach because she was going to leave me due to the lack of time I was in the house!

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"I had to make it worth it and say ‘there will be something at the end of it for you’, and I got there eventually.

"But rugby has always been a love of mine and I’ll leave here, go home, watch it and do a bit more on my day off as well.

"When it becomes your profession, rugby is your go-to.”

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