There’s nothing like a bit of light relief after suffering the embarrassment of your worst Premiership defeat for over a decade and conceding more tries than you have in any other top flight league game.
A visit from the team they dislike more than any other in what is sure to be an almighty tear-up at Franklin’s Gardens, could be just what Northampton Saints need but this will have been the biggest coaching week of Jim Mallinder and Dorian West’s careers.
They have won a Premiership title and a couple of Challenge Cups but finding a way to bounce back from an absolute humbling against Saracens when they have their nearest and dearest coming to visit for a huge derby game will have been some challenge.
If they perform the way they did last week, then some serious questions are going to be asked.
I couldn’t see a defensive structure at all. There were some people flying out of the line and some drifting and it made me question on Twitter whether they even had a defence coach.
Do @SaintsRugby have a defence coach? They are all over the shop
— Andy Goode (@AndyGoode10) September 2, 2017
The 38 points they trailed by after 40 minutes against Saracens is the biggest half-time deficit in any Premiership game since 2008 and London Welsh have been in the top flight for a couple of seasons since then.
We put 71 points on London Welsh when I was at Wasps in 2014/15 but they weren’t behind by as much as 38 at the break. That puts into perspective how feeble Saints’ first-half performance was last week.
I don’t say this lightly but they looked like a side that had just been promoted. There are international players in that team who were non-existent on Saturday and they will be hurting and have to put it right this week.
There are rumours that the coaching side of things has gone a bit stale and hasn’t evolved and, in my opinion, Alex King was made a scapegoat when he left “by mutual consent” just over a month into last season. He is now the backs coach at Montpellier, who have won their opening two games in the Top 14 with try bonus points and scored 12 tries in the process.
Their issues have been up front. Samu Manoa left in 2015 and Louis Picamoles has departed this summer. That is a lot of power towards the back of the pack that has been lost and not been adequately replaced.
If you lose your best player and don’t replace him with someone else who can have that kind of impact, obviously the squad is going to be underpowered because of that. There is no like for like when it comes to Louis Picamoles but Mitch Eadie has cut his teeth in the Championship. That is not a slight on him because he is potentially a very good player but is that good enough recruitment when you are trying to compete with Saracens, Wasps, Leicester and Exeter?
When I was at Wasps, I remember Dai Young said he was shopping in Lidl when he joined the club but after the takeover and the move to the Ricoh Arena he moved on up to Marks & Spencer!
Saracens have brought in the likes of Liam Williams, Will Skelton, Christopher Tolofua and others. They are top of the range signings.
Saints have announced the signing of Dan Biggar for next season this week and there is no doubt that has been pushed through to deflect a little bit from the absolute drubbing they got at Twickenham on Saturday.
This summer they have signed the likes of Rob Horne, Cobus Reinach and Piers Francis with Super Rugby experience and I have no doubt they will add value but they are all in the backs and I think they are massively underpowered up front and, from what we have seen, haven’t evolved in terms of the way the game is played nowadays.
Mark Darbon, who replaced Allan Robson as the club’s chief executive in July, has spoken out in support of the coaching team and insists there will be no “knee-jerk reaction”. If it was football, a loss at the weekend would lead to the sack after that vote of confidence. Thankfully, rugby is not going down that road but it is still a results driven business.
Jim Mallinder and Dorian West brought Northampton back up into the Premiership and have done a great job there historically but you only have to look 37 miles up the M1 to see what can happen. Richard Cockerill was Mr Leicester and people thought he would be there forever but, ultimately, sometimes your voice does go stale as a coach and change can be a good thing for a club.
It is way too early to be talking about hiring and firing after one game but another serious defeat at home this week will certainly raise the question of what direction they’re heading in.
Northampton are a big rugby club. The stature of the club means that they should be in the top four year in, year out.
The visit of the Tigers will certainly focus the minds but there needs to be no more motivation than putting right the embarrassment that they put out on the field against Saracens at Twickenham last week.