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The 'hurry up' Test team comparison that has Saints fearing Racing

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)

Chris Boyd has his Northampton team on red alert as they prepare to welcome Racing to Franklin’s Gardens this Friday for an opening-round Heineken Champions Cup match. The Saints’ most recent experience of a French team was rather deflating, Northampton beaten 16-12 by Bordeaux in last season’s tournament opener. Racing’s recent Top 14 form has been erratic, the Parisians losing four of their last five matches to leave them drifting in eighth spot in the French league despite a start where they won five of the opening seven matches.  

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That sequence of results would suggest that a win for in-form Northampton is on the cards this weekend, but Boyd isn’t taking anything for granted against a club that he believes would trouble many Test teams, never mind one of the best club sides that England has to offer. 

“Racing have never won it and our spy inside their camp said they are more focused on the Heineken Champions Cup than they are on the French league because it is the one thing their owner wants to win,” reckoned Boyd. “The thing for us is this is a one-off game for us to test ourselves against a side that is choc-full of quality. It’s a really good benchmark for us. 

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“The biggest thing about doing your homework is if you think our performance against Bath was a box of chocolates… if you have a look at some of their games they have been dreadful but it seems to be the French way. They could go to an away game that they don’t appear to be very interested in… so you don’t get that sort of a swing in the Premiership. 

“You can go and find anything you want to find from Racing, poor defence, good defence, wide attack, aerial kicking, you can find whatever you like because they can produce it all but what we do know is when they put all their best players together and they are focused on a performance, then a team like Racing would probably beat certainly all tier two nations globally and would probably give some of the bottom of the tier one nations a bit of a hurry up. They are a quality side.”

They are a team, though, that Northampton boss Boyd could never consider coaching. “My mother, God bless her soul, told me when I was about 15 years old that I should learn French, it would be good for me one day. I laughed at her and failed miserably in French in my first year at high school and then dropped it for another subject, so no point me going to France, the language ain’t my friend.”

Neither might be the atmosphere this Friday night even though it is a home match. “Friday nights are not great for us normally,” shrugged Boyd. “The demographic of our fans is a lot of them are gone to bed before 8 o’clock on a Friday night so Friday nights are a bit of a stretch for us.

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“I am not quite sure why but Europe doesn’t seem as popular as the Premiership is. I am not sure it will be sold out but the nice thing about going into Europe is everybody will fancy themselves but there are clubs who are desperately keen to win the Heineken Cup.”

 

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Shaylen 1 hours ago
Jack Willis' Champions Cup masterclass proves English eligibility rules need a rethink

If France, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland got together and all changed their eligibility laws in the same way SA has it would be absolutely bonkers. All players from all nations involved in Europe would be fair game as would their coaches. The investment in rugby would be supercharged as teams would rush to create dream teams. Transfer markets would be super charged, salary caps may change, private investment would grow as rich backers first buy clubs and then put money into their clubs in an effort to land the best players. The richest clubs and franchises would benefit most but money and players would move across borders at a steady flow. Suddenly countries like Wales and Scotland would have a much larger pool of players to select from who would be developed and improved in systems belonging to their rivals within superstar squads while their clubs receive large sums in the transfer market. The Six Nations would experience a big boost as the best players become available all the time. The Champions cup would become even more fiercely contested as the dream teams clash. Fan engagement would grow as fans would follow their favourite players creating interest in the game across the continent. Transfer markets and windows would become interesting events in themselves, speculation would drive it and rumours of big transfers and interest in players would spread. All of this is speculation and much of it would not eventuate straight away but just like in football the spread of players and talent would create these conditions over time. The transfer markets in European football is proof of this. Football had the same club vs country debate eons ago and favoured an open system. This has made it the largest game in the world with global interest and big money. Rugby needs to embrace this approach in the long run as well

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Jon 7 hours ago
Waratahs 'counter-culture' limits Wallaby options for Joe Schmidt

This is a bit dramatic for me, I think the Rebels and Force cultures would be very strong, and if a player is chosen from either, you can be confident they are in a good head space and ready. Whether they quite have the technical or tactical foundations of the other two states is where one would way their risk of selection. I see no need for Schmidt to worry about that risk in this squad. The main reason I could see a predominance of players from Brumbies and Reds, is simple cohesion. What might the coaching group make of what’s lacking in the Tahs, and to a lesser extent Rebels and Force’s, franchise? Certainly sides (players) that are running irish plays like we saw from that lovely McDermott long ball with have a head start. I hope the players can continue it at International level. Really liked what I saw of Wright (don’t know player focus and just hadn’t seen a lot of him anyway) in that game, can see him being a glue in a Wallaby side too. A with the similar worry of selecting players like Ryan, I think it unfounded to worry so much about forward balance at the moment. Including both Wright and Skelton in the same lineout is not going to lose you games gainst Wales. Nor will any unknown weakenss Wales might find in Ryan be exploited to any great extent. It is the perfect time to introduce such a young player. What other shortcuts might Schmidt want to make now, just a year out from hosting BIL? When Gamble came on the scene I thought he had a Pocock ability to break game apart along with performing the role of a openside well. I would be very keen to drop Leota/Hooper for Gamble, and in your squad make up, include Uru as a lock. Did you forget to remove Vunivalu from your team? Would you have Meafou in your squad if you could?

114 Go to comments
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