Saints have reasons to be Api with their lock stock

Api Ratuniyarawa has made a bit impression since joining Saints (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Api Ratuniyarawa has made a bit impression since joining Saints (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
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There was a time when Saints weren’t that well stocked in the lock department.

A few years ago, they were even forced to field flanker Calum Clark and No.8 Sam Dickinson in the second row.

But next season, they could have more choice than they have for some time.

That is because second row stalwarts such as Courtney Lawes and Christian Day have been supported by the emergence of some breakthrough stars.

Not too many would have heard of David Ribbans or Api Ratuniyarawa before last season.

But now, those names are on the lips of the Northampton faithful.

Ribbans came to Franklin’s Gardens back in January and after scoring a hat-trick in a friendly win at Bedford Blues in March, he was thrust into the first team.

And the 21-year-old was to make a big impression, competing for the man of the match award in big games against the likes of Wasps and Saracens.

Then there was Ratuniyarawa.

A gentle giant off the field, the big Fijian certainly packed a punch on it.

After moving to Saints last September, Ratuniyarawa established himself as something of a super sub, making his mark from the bench in a number of matches.

His power and ability to offload with ease was key in a new flowing style of rugby that Saints utilised towards the end of the campaign.

He continued to get better with every game and fans can be optimistic about what Ratuniyarawa, who started for Fiji against Italy last weekend, can offer next season.

“I’ve been settling in well, enjoying it so far,” Ratuniyarawa said.

“I’ve come a long way this season.

“We fought to the end of the season and it’s been good for me.

“I’ve felt pretty good here. I fitted in really well with the environment and the system here.

“I’ve been learning a lot and it’s been helping my game to develop.”

It is clear that the improvement the likes of Ribbans and Ratuniyarawa have made has been accelerated by the fact British & Irish Lions lock Lawes and experienced campaigner Day are in the squad.

And Ratuniyarawa said: “All the guys in the forwards have been helpful, especially with the team calls and all the things we do in the game.

“It’s been a big learning curve for me and I’m glad I’ve had something to offer to the team.

“I just have to stick to the system and play what I’m good at, getting the ball and doing some offloads.

“The main thing is to stick to the team system and enjoying when I get a chance to play.”

Like many players who come to Northampton, Ratuniyarawa, who joined Saints from French division two side Agen, has been impressed with the support the club enjoys.

He said: “The support from the fans has been massive.

“They’ve been behind us throughout the season and it’s been good for the team.

“We knew we just needed to execute well in games to put extra points on the board.

“We lost a few games in the last few minutes and we worked on our game management to close games down.

“We kept on working hard.”

Saints had some difficult times last season, especially in matches that they dominated but lost in the final few minutes.

Ratuniyarawa was one of the men tasked with shoring things up late on, and he admits his disappointment that some big games slipped away from his side.

“When you come in, you really need to help the team to continue with where it left off and to lift the team to finish off,” he said.

“It was quite frustrating that some of the mistakes crept in and let us down.

“We worked on those things and thankfully it was fixable.”