Coaching changes have kept Saints players on their toes

Jamal Ford-Robinson helped Saints to see off Harlequins last Friday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Jamal Ford-Robinson helped Saints to see off Harlequins last Friday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Jamal Ford-Robinson says the coaching changes at Saints have kept everyone on their toes.

And the prop feels the players are thriving under the pressure created by the appointments of Alan Gaffney and Chris Boyd.

Gaffney was drafted in as technical coaching consultant at the start of 2018, following director of rugby Jim Mallinder's departure in December.

And it was recently announced that the long-term successor to Mallinder - Gaffney only joined on a deal until the end of this season - will be Hurricanes head coach Boyd.

That means the current crop of Saints players have another man to impress for the remainder of this season, with the Kiwi coach keeping an eye on matters from afar.

Saints have won four of their past five matches in all competitions.

And Ford-Robinson, who joined Northampton from Bristol last summer, said: "You're always on your toes.

"I can imagine if you stayed under one coach for a long time, you get quite settled - the coach knows what you're about and you know what they're about. There's never really that pressure to go out there and show anything different, but now with Gaffney coming in and Chris Boyd coming in next season, there is that edge about everyone that you need to be on it.

"I'm sure he'll be watching for when he comes in and Gaffney is going to be relaying messages to him as well.

"Everyone is trying to one-up each other, which is really good for competition and is going to drive the whole team forward."

Ford-Robinson has been competing with Kieran Brookes and Paul Hill for the tighthead role at Saints this season.

And the 24-year-old, who has made 17 appearances for his current club, said: "I've been quite fortunate with the injury to Brookes that gave me some game time, quite a few starts in a row.

"I've just been fortunate to stay in the team for the remaining weeks as well.

"I've been really happy with how I've settled in here and hopefully I can keep consistent and what will be, will be.

"My biggest work on is my set piece.

"The coaches are really happy with how things are going around the park, but as a young tighthead it's probably always going to be about going back to set piece.

"You've got to make sure your set piece is strong because as a tighthead, you're here to lock down that scrum.

"I'm going to keep working, day in, day out.

"I'm pretty happy and I think the coaches are, too."

Ford-Robinson will look to add to the joy of the coaches this week as Saints aim to see off Bath at The Rec, in what will be a dress rehearsal for next month's Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-finals.

He said: "I'm very much looking forward to it, especially after the recent announcement that we're playing them in the Anglo-Welsh Cup semi-finals.

"Winning this week and starting our climb back up the Premiership would be a nice little pre-cursor to that.

"We've gone four weeks without playing any Premiership games so it's nice to get back to the league this week.

"These games we've got left are really important for us and hopefully the semi-final against Bath can go to plan, too.

"It's a very important period for us."