Saints are packing a big punch once again

Saints' forwards have been in fine form of late (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Saints' forwards have been in fine form of late (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Ethan Waller started his emergence at Saints wanting to emulate the heroics of one of the club’s greatest forward packs.

And now the Academy product feels Northampton can again boast a group capable of challenging Europe’s best.

Waller was on his way to joining Saints’ Senior Academy when the first team went on a stunning run to the 2010/11 Heineken Cup final.

They eventually ran out of steam in the second half of the showpiece against Leinster, losing a 22-6 half-time lead in a 33-22 defeat at the Millennium Stadium.

But Saints, with a front row of Soane Tonga’uiha, Dylan Hartley and Brian Mujati, had shown what they were capable of.

And they had left a plethora of teams crushed, with the power of their forwards proving irresistable at times.

Saints have not gone away from that in recent years, but they have perhaps been unable to replicate the 2010/11 dominance.

Until recently, with the club’s bone-crushers stepping up in significant displays against Scarlets, Glasgow Warriors and Gloucester.

Waller has been backing up brother Alex from the bench, while Kieran Brookes has been bossing the tighthead role and Mike Haywood has been dynamic at hooker.

And Waller said: “The forward pack has been doing what we’re made to do: pushing pianos around.

“The last few weeks have been big and I remember four, five years ago when we were that massive threat in Europe. We were one of the best scrummaging packs around.

“It’s always been our aim - we’ve never gone away from that - but at the moment we’re starting to hit that form again.

“We’re sitting in meetings and we’re feeling confident, but it’s important we don’t get that confidence confused with complacency.

“We’re still critical of ourselves in meetings, we’re still picking up on the little things and driving for perfection every single week.”

On his memories of that magical European year, Waller recalled: “I was 18, but I was around the club every day so I met those boys.

“I was learning from Soane, Reggie Dreyer and my brother in terms of looseheads.

“I remember being around those guys and the ethos we had in terms of forward power, but our game has developed as as a team since then.

“Being able to couple that with the massive forward shunt is awesome.”

So does Waller fancy another rain-soaked encounter at The Rec on Saturday?

“I relish being a forward and I love being in the scrums, all the confrontation of it, but I also love getting the ball in my hands and running around,” said the 23-year-old.

“I don’t think anybody particularly enjoys freezing cold but the actual nitty gritty of head on head is something I really love.”