'Those guys have had a little taste and haven't really kicked on'
Northampton boss Chris Boyd has one particular issue he wants to solve in the new Gallagher Premiership season – making the Saints players who have had a fleeting taste of international rugby more consistent so that they can push on and make a better name for themselves at Test level. The likes of Courtney Lawes and Dan Biggar are world-class at their trade, their recent respective form for England and Wales resulting in them both being integral parts of the Lions Test team that toured South Africa.
However, there is the next wave of players at Franklin’s Gardens who have had international level call-ups but have remained on the fringes. Lewis Ludlam, George Furbank and Piers Francis have all had some England caps under Eddie Jones without ensuring they are regular picks, Paul Hill was waiting four years in between games until this summer, while Ollie Sleightholme, Alex Mitchell, Fraser Dingwall and Dave Ribbans have all made training squads without getting capped.
It’s not just an England issue: Rory Hutchinson has been capped by Scotland but there have also only been a handful of appearances rather than regular selection and this is a pattern that Boyd is determined to finally nip in the bud heading into his fourth season in charge at Northampton, the club where he has regularly given youth its fling.
“If you look at the Saints team of perhaps 2014 to 2018, that had been a very stable team, a very experienced team, a very mature team and they had stuck with that team and been reasonably successful,” said Boyd to RugbyPass.
“It [the success] drained off a little but the youngsters really hadn’t been given a lot of opportunities so what struck me when I arrived was that there were some really capable rugby players here if we gave them a chance to express themselves because we thought that we would get some fruit off the tree. That has proven to be.
'There were some tough conversations but as a whole, the squad stuck together… it was massive because I have been in situations where that is not the case'
Losing hurt but it didn't break @SaintsRugby
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 28, 2021
“The trick now is we have had a number of guys out of our academy that have all had little snippets of opportunities to go into the England environment but in the back-end, none of those has really gone on to consolidate themselves, so there is a group of youngsters here and it is probably time they started putting in some really consistent performances to see if they can really go to the next level.
“Most of it has led to England. We had the odd guy that went to Scotland and the odd international that was already an international but those guys have gone and had a little taste and haven’t really kicked on. That [Test rugby] is another environment where someone else makes the decisions and we just hope that we can help some of those guys go a little bit further.”
"I ticked off a few physical goals that I had been wanting to ever since I had started at the club"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 27, 2021
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