'It's not the Wanderers!' - Saints players warned ahead of cup opener

The players who will take to the field in Saints' Premiership Rugby Cup opener have been told in no uncertain terms how important the fixture is.

Friday, 12th November 2021, 7:00 am
Matt Ferguson

The coaches have warned the youthful squad that they are expected to step up and 'showcase their skillset' against London Irish at cinch Stadium at Franklin's Gardens.

The majority of Saints' senior players will not feature on Saturday, but assistant coach Matt Ferguson insists that doesn't mean the game against Irish is being treated as a second-team fixture.

Ferguson said: "We started the week off by telling them this isn't a Wandies game - it's a meaningful game at Franklin's Gardens and a great opportunity for them to go and showcase their skillset.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

"Most of them have earned the right, be it through their performances at Bedford or at training, and we're really excited to see that on the pitch at the weekend.

"We make a big part of reviewing the games at Bedford so we've seen a lot of the players get some good experiences.

"The Championship is a tough league with some good rugby and Bedford have been playing some good stuff so those boys will hopefully hit the ground running.

"The point of the link is that when we do call upon people, they are ready to put their best foot forward - and the selection will give boys the chance to do that at the weekend."

There are set to be a host of Saints debuts on Saturday.

And Ferguson added: "It's exciting and frustrating because I mentioned Sesame Street to one of the lads earlier this week and they hadn't heard of it so that tells you how young the squad is.

"We're probably expecting five or six new Saintsmen this weekend, and that's really exciting.

"It brings a different vibe to the training week as well."

The majority of the men who featured in Saints' 30-6 Gallagher Premiership defeat at Sale Sharks will get the chance to put their feet up this weekend.

Ferguson said: "They have a regeneration week so they'll be on lighter duties rather than the slog of the day-to-day rugby.

"I don't think anyone's off rugby, some will be doing rehab, prehab and looking after injuries.

"They'll all be doing various skills but the highly-raced guys will be spending less time on the grass, which is great because all of a sudden you're expecting someone like Manny (Iyogun) to start leading and talking the way Sue (Alex Waller) does.

"If Sue's not around then Manny has to do that chat - and that's great for him and the squad as well."

Neither Saints or London Irish will have much idea of the players they will face on Saturday until the sides are named on Friday afternoon.

And that means the majority of the Saints coaches' focus has been on their own side this week.

"We're always better when we're 90 per cent worried about us anyway," Ferguson said.

"I said to the forwards group that the other 10 per cent is the tactical stuff we see from the opposition.

"Irish have played two or three A-League games but there's no evidence of what their PRC team will look like.

"What we've really focused on is what Saints' DNA is and what it looks like when we play well.

"We can certainly play better than we have in the past two weeks and if we get it right, the 10 per cent we don't know about the opposition won't matter.

"It's important we put our best foot forward and really put our game on the pitch and let them worry about what we're doing rather than vice versa."