Dickens' Saxons successes can aid Saints' bid for glory
While you will often hear what players have picked up from their experiences on tour, not so much is said abut coaches.
But for Saints assistant coach Alan Dickens, the recent England Saxons tour of South Africa provided him with plenty of food for thought.
Dickens was part of a management team that was spearheaded by Exeter Chiefs coach and former Saints fly-half Ali Hepher.
And the men in charge did a fine job, leading the Saxons to a superb 2-0 series win against the Springboks’ second string.
It was another learning curve for Dickens, who will look to bring his knowledge back to Franklin’s Gardens for the new campaign, which kicks off at home to Bath on September 3.
“Taking myself out of the Northampton Saints environment for three weeks, you see how things are done differently,” Dickens said.
“You pick up things as you go and as a coach it’s a healthy thing to do.
“You pick things up from the other coaches and no doubt they’re doing the same, thinking about what we do at Northampton.
“We were there for three weeks and put all the energies into two performances we could be proud of.
“Anything out of your normal environment is fresh and you can take things back to the club, whether that’s going on tour or going on courses to South Africa or New Zealand.
“It can also be that you’re reaffirming that you’re doing things well and we do a lot of things well at Northampton.”
Dickens, a scrum-half with Sale Sharks, Leeds, Saracens and Saints during his playing days, had never previously been part of a tour.
And he said: “It was a great experience and a privilege to be asked to go.
“I never toured as a player so that was my first experience of touring.
“The tour was made all the more positive as a result of getting two good performances and results.
“It was pretty intense and the lads who are there really want to impress and play for the England first team.
“They’re aware that (England head coach) Eddie Jones had picked the first side and they wanted to impress him.
“He watched both games and no doubt formed some opinions of the players.”
Kieran Brookes started both of the Saxons wins against South Africa A, while James Craig was also in the squad but did not play.
The next endeavours for those men will be during Saints’ pre-season campaign, which begins with a Challenge Vaquerin match against Castres in Camares on August 13.
And Dickens said: “Tom Wood, as the new captain, has set the tone, driving standards in training.
“That’s filtered through to the senior boys and they’re driving it.
“The strength and conditioning department are really impressed.
“This is the fourth week of training and it’s been really positive, really good.
“The boys are really positive and are putting work in.”