Hewitt stresses Saints had plenty of coaching options

Tony Hewitt
Tony Hewitt
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Tony Hewitt says suggestions that established coaches didn’t want to join the current Saints management team are ‘totally untrue’.

Saints parted ways with attack coach Alex King in October and were on the hunt for a man to fill the void.

On Monday, they announced that Phil Dowson, who will retire from playing after finishing this season at Worcester Warriors, would be joining as assistant coach.

That means Alan Dickens will fill the attack coach role on a full-time basis, having moved from his defensive role after King’s exit.

Mark Hopley will step up from his position as Academy coach to take care of the defensive duties, while Dorian West will remain forwards coach.

While supporters were clearly delighted to have Dowson, who made 186 appearances for Saints between 2009 and 2015, back at the club, some were left wondering why a more experienced man was not brought in.

But Hewitt said: “I know I’m being quoted on social media saying we had applications from all over the world and supporters wondering why we didn’t appoint one of them, but we did have coaches from all over the world and they weren’t ones Jim wanted to go with.

“It’s a bit like the Aaron Mauger and (Richard) Cockerill thing at Leicester in that if you bring the wrong person in and then you end up having a clash, it doesn’t achieve anything.

“We’ve had people over here looking. (Neil) Doak, the Ulster coach, was over here looking, Johan Ackermann, but he wants a head coach position and if you bring him in, you’d have all sorts of conflicts in how he fits in.

“So we’ve had the appications and people are keen.

“It’s totally untrue when people suggest no one wants to come to Northampton. People want to come, but you’ve got to still get people who fit within Jim’s coaching staff.

“Jim honestly feels that Phil Dowson will add that bit of respect in the squad because people look up to him.

“He’s among the top three or four players in numbers of Premiership games played.

“He’s done a very good analysis of us and what he feels he can improve is the non matchday 23, the guys who have an infrequency of games. He feels he can help that spirit there.”

Some fans also questioned Saints’ decision to confirm next season’s coaching structure on Monday, just a day after the 46-31 Premiership defeat at Newcastle Falcons.

But Hewitt explained: “The reason for that was we’d signed the contract the previous week with Phil Dowson and Worcester would have announced it.

“They would have announced he was going and we might just as well announce it because otherwise it would leak out somewhere.”

Hewitt believes next season’s coaching setup will bear fruit.

And he added: “The reason Jim’s gone in this direction is that he honestly believes Alan Dickens is an absolute top quality coach. He’s worked with England Saxons.

“Until Sunday, we had the fewest number of tries scored against us in the league, but since he’s moved to the attack we’ve actually started scoring more tries.

“We are playing more attacking rugby but we’ve got a transition now.

“Mark Hopley’s been working with the defence and we’ve had (England defence coach) Paul Gustard up here working with him as well. He’s a good coach but he’s on a learning curve and we’ve got this transition.

“Most of the successful clubs now have young coaches.

“Phil had been offered another 12 months with Worcester to play, but he wants to be a director of rugby at some point.

“He is one of those guys who could be a director of rugby because he’s got that presence and all-round skills.”