Saints not planning big changes for final four games

Saints' technical coaching consultant Alan Gaffney (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Saints' technical coaching consultant Alan Gaffney (picture: Sharon Lucey)

At St James' Park nine days ago, Saints fielded several players who will be heading for the exit door at Franklin's Gardens this summer.

Kieran Brookes, Stephen Myler and George North were all in the starting line-up, despite it being known that their futures lie away from Northampton.

And there were other members of the 23-man matchday squad who are still shrouded in public uncertainty, with the likes of Ben Foden and Nafi Tuitavake seeing their contracts come to an end this summer.

So it begs the question, is now the time for Saints to select some of their younger fringe players who will definitely be at the Gardens next season?

The likes of Paul Hill, Lewis Ludlam and Tom Collins were all restricted to the role of tackle-bag carriers at Newcastle.

But when asked whether those players would get a shot in the final four Aviva Premiership games of the season, technical coaching consultant Alan Gaffney seemed to suggest they may have to remain patient.

"We're playing for a lot of pride at the present time and winning is pretty important so there won't be a testing period," said Gaffney, whose side host Saracens on Saturday.

"We'll be picking our strongest teams.

"At Newcastle, we had five or six first-team forwards not playing through injury or suspension. We were without Dylan Hartley, Alex Waller, Courtney Lawes, Tom Wood and Heinrich Brüssow so a lot of people are getting the opportunity at the present time.

"We are looking forward and there are some Wanderers games coming up so people will get an opportunity there.

"We play Wasps tonight (April 2) so that will be interesting to see how they go because the Wandies haven't played since December 31 and it's been difficult to make judgements.

"We'll make decisions as we go, but we do have to look forward.

"At the same time, we've still got to get a good side out for the rest of the season."

Since Gaffney arrived at the turn of the year Saints, who lost 12 of their final 13 matches in 2017, have won five of their 11 games.

And the Australian said: “We have got better in a lot of areas in the past three months.

“We’ve had our slips from time to time, but generally speaking we’ve been quite reasonable.

“We were poor in the first half against Sale, but the game against Exeter away, the game against Bath away and at Newcastle, we performed pretty well.

“We’re taking steps forward, but we’re occasionally taking a step back and a lot of that revolves around this discipline problem, which isn’t good enough.”