Saints still have belief after sluggish start to the season

Tom Collins is enjoying his run in the Saints team (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Tom Collins is enjoying his run in the Saints team (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Belief. It was a word Tom Collins must have uttered more than 20 times during his pre-match media session at Franklin's Gardens on Wednesday afternoon.

The winger was keen to stress that despite suffering five defeats in their first seven games, Saints are still fully confident in the plans they have put in place.

The honeymoon period under new boss Chris Boyd did not last long as the realities of life in England's top division and Europe hit home.

But Saints are not visibly bowed by their failure to begin the new campaign with a bang.

And in the corridors of the Gardens, there is still a faith that the tide will turn in favour of a team who have found themselves swept down the league table in recent years.

Last Saturday, Saints were brushed aside by Clermont Auvergne, losing 41-20 in the Challenge Cup curtain-raiser on home soil.

And ahead of the second European game of the season, at the Dragons this evening, Collins was in bullish mood.

"I feel we've still got that belief and we feel we can roll over any team," said the 24-year-old, who scored a fine breakaway try late in the game against Clermont.

"Everyone was frustrated last weekend because the vibe in the changing room last week was that we could run them around and get the result.

"It was frustrating to come in at half-time and be down by 14 points, but there is still a belief in the changing room that we can turn teams over.

"We need to get that full 80 minutes of quality rugby because at the moment it's coming in patches. We'll have a two-minute spell of class and then give away points just after we've scored.

"It's about trying to get positives at the moment rather than doing something really good then giving away three points. It makes it easy for sides to clock up momentum.

"Every team we're playing is quality and you can't afford to give teams that window to score points because they will just clock up more and more."

And Collins added: "It's been a frustrating start to the year.

"We've come in as a new group and we've come in with aspirations to be further on in the league than we have been.

"We've had a couple of losses that we feel we should have been better in and it's frustrating.

"Last year, it was hard when we were losing and getting battered because you can't seem to turn it around, but this year we've got that belief back but we've been getting pipped.

"That means you don't know what went wrong and that was how we felt when we had the Saracens game here last month (when Saints conceded two late tries to lose 38-27).

"We feel like we've still got that belief, we're still trying to learn and we are a young team with a few experienced players.

"It's going to take time adapt and learn, but we can't say that all year. We've got to start to get some results together.

"It hasn't been the best start to the year but we can look at some positives and focus on this block before the Prem starts again to get some results in our favour."

Saints are desperate to kick-start their season by winning at Rodney Parade tonight.

And Collins said: "To go out and get absolutely hammered last weekend was frustrating but looking to tonight, this competition is massive for us.

"We need to start getting some wins and momentum during this next four weeks because that will stand us in good stead for the weeks of Premiership games after that.

"If we can start learning and getting even more confidence in ourselves, we can turn it around."

Collins was in and out of the Saints side under the previous management.

But he finally seems to have established himself on the wing, featuring in all seven games this season, starting six of them.

"It's been really good having (attack coach) Sam Vesty here," said Collins, who had made a total of 57 first-team appearances since emerging from the Saints Academy.

"I feel I'm learning every day and even though I'm 24 now, I still class myself as a player who is still learning.

"I've been in and out of the team for the past four or five years and it hasn't done me good because I'd come out of the team, be left with things to work on and have to wait a while to get back in the side and do that.

"But at the minute I know I've got a lot to work on and I'm going out there each week and gaining new things.

"I feel like I'm improving week by week and if I can keep doing that it will be good.

"I know at 24 people have done so much with their career and it's been a frustrating four or five years.

"I would come into the team and have a good week, then a bad week and be out.

"You're left wondering how you're going to change that because you don't know when that next opportunity will come.

"So it's nice at the moment to be able to keep putting things into practice and hopefully I can just improve all the time."