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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)

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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.”

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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.

“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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