Northampton Saints appointed new Director of Rugby Chris Boyd from the Hurricanes in January but had to wait a full eight months before his arrival. At the time of his appointment, Jim Mallinder had been shown the door and the club were languishing in tenth place in the Premiership table.
Speaking exclusively to RugbyPass Boyd admitted the club’s predicament was a surprise to him when he was approached.
“Yes it was, for a number of reasons. Historically, Saints have been a good performing club. Even in that season last year I think at one stage around rounds five or six they were near the top of the table, in fact I think they were top of the table. And yet things unwound a little bit,” he said.
Boyd continued, “If you look at the roster, there’s a pretty good crop of players here so it was a bit of a surprise, but I think the Premiership is probably one of the tightest competitions in the world from a rugby perspective. There are no rabbits and the difference between success and failure is pretty fine.”
Saints finished ninth by the end of the season, Boyd describing how he thinks it may have unfolded. He said, “A season is a little bit like a game. You can get some momentum and the ball seems to bounce your way, things seem to go your way. You seem to get that late bonus point try that gives you a ledge. Alternatively sometimes for one reason or another, the season tends to be going down and the faster you dig, the further you fall down, it’s a fine line.”
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With three English coaches working under him in Matt Ferguson (forwards), Phil Dowson (defence) and Sam Vesty (attack), Boyd is keen to emphasise the role he wants to have alongside them.
Boyd said, “One of the things I wanted to do when I came here was I didn’t want to be reliant on bringing a whole bunch of Kiwis here. I have a real bent for coach development – I worked for New Zealand high performance sport for a couple of years – so the challenge amongst that was for the team, but also getting some really good young coaches here and helping them grow and develop. [That] was part of not only what I wanted to achieve, but when I spoke to Mark Darbon the CEO here and the board, that organic development of English product was a part of what we wanted to achieve together.”
Boyd has appointed Dylan Hartley as club captain with Alex Waller as co-captain. He describes Hartley as the “alpha male here” and “a great leader who casts a big shadow in the group in a very positive way”. He also describes how Waller’s appointment is not only potential cover for Hartley’s international call-ups but also works as a “very good way to help grow a lieutenant and somebody that might take over when it’s time”.
Northampton travel to Kingsholm in the opening round of the Gallagher Premiership but Boyd is not shying away from those encounters that the die-hard Saints fans will be focussed on.
Boyd advises, “Like in all competitions, all games are important but there’s always those games that bring the best out of you. Obviously, one of the big local rivalries here is with Leicester and I think the Leicester folk would say exactly the same thing. That’s an important derby and I think it’s a great initiative that we’re going to take that game to Twickenham in support of Hornie [Rob Horne] tragically, whose career is finished. I think that’s a great initiative supported by both clubs.”
As for what Saints fans can expect from a Chris Boyd directed team, the relaxed New Zealander preferred to suggest that the combination of previous and current personnel may mean the style takes a little while to find. Boyd explained, “I think we’re still chewing our way through that in the team, in respect of the influence that I might have, that Dan Biggar might have, the influence that was already here, the influence that Sam Vesty has on the way we attack. I think there’s a lot of moving parts. We said at training today, we just need to relax and settle down and work out what is optimal for the way we play, it will become apparent in time.”
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