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The most illegal back row in the Gallagher Premiership

By Chris Jones
Northampton Saints v Racing 92 – Heineken Champions Cup – cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens

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Newcastle boss Dean Richards has identified why Northampton fall foul of referees more than any other Premiership team with Chris Boyd’s team having amassed 155 penalties this season- eclipsing bottom club Bath who have given away 143 .

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Richards is banking on this inability to stay on the right side of the law to help Falcons kick start their year after a desperately disappointing 31-0 loss to his former club Leicester while Saints were losing 30-6 to Saracens having been tied with their opponents at half time.

It is the Saints back row, led by the foraging captain Lewis Ludlam that is the main reason the Midlands outfit has been so illegal although he does top the Premiership statistics for most break down steals with nine this season. However, it is the number of collective penalties that Northampton’s back row give away that has become the focus for Richards and his coaching staff as they prepare for the Kingston Park clash. Ludlam is desperate to regain his England place and is throwing himself into the breakdown with such ferocity he stands fourth on the Premiership table for breakdown arrivals with 78.

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Northampton gave away another 15 penalties in that loss to Saracens and Richards said: “We only gave away ten penalties against Leicester and the Northampton back row gives more penalties away than any other in the Premiership because they compete so much at the break down. They are quite ill-disciplined in the way that they do that and I am comfortable with our discipline.

“We have to be more clinical on a our ball presentation but they do go in more and give away more penalties than any other back row and it does cost them dear. You go out expecting them to perform as well as they can and if they don’t then happy days.“

Newcastle’s ability to compete for possession will be boosted by the return of highly rated hooker George McGuigan while they have a host of back row options of their own. Richards added: “The Northampton loss to Sarries wasn’t as one sided as the score suggests. They have quality it their pack and out wide and so it will be a difficult game.”

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