Waller insists Saints are making progress, but 'a bit slower than everyone would like'

During Saints' four-match losing streak in recent weeks, questions have been asked about the direction in which this team is going.

By Tom Vickers
Thursday, 6th January 2022, 5:03 pm
Updated Thursday, 6th January 2022, 5:04 pm
Alex Waller
Alex Waller

In the final year of Chris Boyd's current contract, the time appeared to be now to show what could be delivered under the Kiwi boss.

And it was going well until the middle of December as Saints headed into their Champions Cup campaign sitting third in the Gallagher Premiership standings.

Hopes were high that this could be the year that this team ended the long wait for a major trophy, most likely in the domestic competition.

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But after losses to Racing 92 and Ulster, Saints have been floored by Harlequins and Saracens.

It has meant they have slipped down to sixth in the Premiership ahead of Saturday's trip to eighth-placed Newcastle Falcons.

And there are fears that this season will start to disintegrate if the team can't find a way to put some results together in the weeks to come.

Alex Waller has been around the Gardens long enough to know what progress looks like.

And the seasoned prop insists steps forward are being taken, even if they are not being taken as rapidly as everyone of a Saints persuasion desires.

"We are making progress, possibly a little bit slower than everyone would like," Waller said.

"But you saw Harlequins turn it around in the last half of the season last year and they ended up winning the thing so it's not over until it's over.

"We don't play the game to lose and we're disappointed when we do.

"We're disappointed we let the fans down (in the 30-6 home defeat to Saracens) last weekend and there's plenty to work on.

"The answers are very much within the changing room and it's not massive amounts - it's just the small errors that are costing us.

"It's frustrating because they're pretty easy fixes.

"We've had a good chat this week as a squad. Luds (Lewis Ludlam) has spoken very well, along with Courts (Coourtney Lawes) and the rest of the senior player group.

"We're by no means in a crisis, we just need to nip this in the bud and get cracking on with this new year to build towards the end of the season."

Saints are only four points off fourth in the Premiership but their next three games in the competition come away from home, with trips to Worcester and Leicester following the Newcastle battle.

And Waller insists excitement has overtaken frustration as the overriding emotion at the Gardens this week.

"There would be something wrong if we weren't frustrated," said the 31-year-old.

"We're showing glimpses of being really good and then just not concentrating for the whole game.

"The positive thing is that we've got the people in the room and the challenge is there for us now.

"Time will tell, but I'm excited to see how we go this weekend and react."

Newcastle also come into the game looking for a reaction after they were thrashed 31-0 by Leicester Tigers last weekend.

And Waller said: "Newcastle have got some great players and they're a good outfit that is coached well.

"It's like any team in the league because any team can beat any other, and you're seeing that more and more throughout the season.

"The quality of the game within the Premiership has raised so much.

"Back when I started, you could write off one or two games to play some young boys or give some lads a rest but it's 100 per cent every week in the past few years because the squads are so good.

"It's not one thing that makes any team good, it's a combination of things.

"We're pretty confident in what we've got and hopefully we can go up there and get the win."

Saints are set to be greeted by a familiar face at Kingston Park as 2014 title-winning centre Luther Burrell is part of the Falcons team.

And Waller said: "Luth's record here speaks for itself.

"We don't keep in touch massively but whenever we see each other it's always nice to catch up with old team-mates.

"We created some great memories together when he was part of the squad and that will never be forgotten.

"When the whistle blows, he's just a Newcastle player, then afterwards we'll catch up."

One thing Saints know they must do to beat Burrell and Co this weekend is to improve their second-half performance vastly.

They really struggled after the break against Harlequins and Saracens and they looked to lose their composure after going behind in those games.

“It's something we've spoken about and I think it's lapses of concentration that put you on the back foot, then you're trying to fix things that shouldn't need fixing,” Waller said.

“We've just got to stick to our roles.

“For me and the other senior boys, going a try behind isn't the end of the world - I've been in that situation many a time and come out on the right side at the final whistle.

“It's about learning it, being able to put it into practice and getting the messages across clearly in the week.

“It's not great to lose a couple in the Prem and in Europe as well and it all adds up and people start talking, but within the group we're very confident we've got the ability to turn this around.

“We're looking to do that this weekend.

“We can put in a good shift this weekend and get things off to a better start than we did last weekend.”