Saints to Sinners! After 12 defeats in a row and still being without a home win in 2020, Northampton insist they can end the agony against Worcester
- Northampton are looking to end their woeful run when they take on Worcester
- Chris Boyd’s side have lost 13 games in a row and nine out of nine at home
- Lewis Ludlam is confident that Northampton will be able to turn things around
Northampton have been hurting in 2020 — and failure to beat Worcester at Franklin’s Gardens on Sunday will mean having gone through the calendar year without a home win.
Chris Boyd’s side haven’t savoured success at their own ground since beating Benetton in the Champions Cup in January.
Since then the return has been: played nine, lost nine. Defeat on Sunday would also represent their 13th consecutive defeat home and away.
Northampton Saints director of rugby Chris Boyd is looking for his side to improve quickly
In the aftermath of the Covid shutdown last season, Northampton’s fall from grace was stark and utterly unexpected.
They were transformed from title contenders to a team haunted by doubt. This season, positive signs against Bristol, Bordeaux and Leinster have not prompted a change of fortune. The victory they need to ignite a revival remains elusive.
Boyd, the acclaimed Kiwi coach who joined from the Hurricanes in 2018, often displays a calm exterior in public but he has been living and breathing his club’s ordeal. ‘I don’t think anyone involved in high-performance sport can leave it at the door,’ he said.
England flanker Lewis Ludlam believes Northampton will be able to turn things around soon
‘Your work is very public so depending how it goes on Saturday you’ve either had a good week’s work or a bad week’s work and everyone knows about it. That is based on the outcome of an 80 minutes when you can control some of it but not all of it.
‘So you’re not human if it doesn’t affect you. It’s much easier to walk through the village when you’ve had wins and it’s tougher for everybody when you haven’t because they’re feeling for you and they don’t know what to say either. It can be awkward.
‘It’s bloody hard. You do take it home and it’s ever present but you have to accept that it’s part of the deal. If you don’t like it then you might as well go and do something else.’
England flanker Lewis Ludlam was installed as Northampton’s co-captain for this season. By nature, the 25-year-old is unfazed by having his back to the wall but he admits it has been a tough period since rugby resumed in the summer.
Northampton will be determined to end their agony when they take on Worcester on Sunday
‘It hasn’t been a pleasant time at the club over the last five or six months, as you can imagine,’ he said. ‘We’re not where we want to be as a group of players. Some lads do read stuff (criticism) online and it can really get to them but we’re trying not to let outside noise get into the camp but focus on our performance.
‘We’ve not been performing the way we can. It’s not nice to be losing games but I’ve always liked being the underdog and I think a few other lads in the team like that as well. It’s a challenge for us to dig ourselves out of the hole we’re in and turn our season around.’
A collective mood of optimism is founded on a conviction that the Saints’ spirit remains strong. Boyd noted how well his squad handled the Covid upheaval and the pay cuts which followed. He is hopeful that their unity and resilience will soon help them out of their slump.
Northampton have lost nine games out of nine at home and have lost 12 in a row overall
‘The thing that’s pleasing — if you can be pleased during a losing streak — is that I haven’t seen any sign of the white flag going up or any cracks appearing,’ he said.
‘Everyone is still working bloody hard to make the best of a bad situation. ‘We know it’s all in there, we’ve just got to find a way to unlock it. There is no silver bullet and the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over again but expect a different outcome.
‘We’ve just got to keep working hard and working smart. They say that the first thing you’ve got to do when you’re in a hole is to stop digging and I think that’s absolutely true.‘
In relative terms, we have a youngish group, still finding their way. But I look at every week optimistically and think that if everyone brings their “A” game, we’ve got a chance.’
The Saints have sufficient pedigree in their squad that they should have more than an even chance of ending their losing run on Sunday against Worcester. But it’s not just a question of talent; there is a mental hurdle in front of them. Ludlam senses they are ready to clear it and move on.
‘The losing streak is sometimes in the back of your head but it’s not really spoken about,’ he said. ‘We’re aware that it’s been a while since we’ve won games but we’re also very aware that we’re heading in the right direction and hopefully that win will come this weekend.
‘It’s been a difficult year for everyone and we want to put smiles on the faces of people around Northampton by winning some games again. That is very important to us. Hopefully, we can give the fans a little Christmas present this weekend and get back on track.
‘I’ve been in losing teams in the past and you can get blaming and some lads not giving everything or looking for change. But Boydy has built a family mentality which has helped us through a difficult time.
Ludlam says Boyd has built a ‘family mentality’ at Northampton, with players sticking together
‘Everyone is feeling the pain of losing, everyone wants to do something about it and everyone is pulling in the same direction, which is testament to the culture Boydy has built.’
Northampton aren’t in crisis management mode because the season is barely a month old and they are convinced a turnaround is within their reach.
‘Three (league) games don’t make a season,’ said Ludlam.
‘When that first win comes a lot of those 50-50s and confidence issues will start to go our way. If we stick to the task and keep pulling in the same direction something will click and turn around.
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