Saints star Wood: We're in it to win it!
While many outside the corridors of Franklin's Gardens will see Saints' game at Exeter on Saturday as something of a bonus, that is certainly no longer the feeling inside the squad.
Boss Chris Boyd did say a few weeks ago that a Premiership play-off place would be a good achievement for his side, but he and his players now know that much more can be done.Boyd knows Saints can make this an 'excellent or outstanding' season if they win two more matches, while the players clearly share his thoughts.And they are eager to avoid being seen as a side who are simply going to Sandy Park to make up the numbers when they square up to the league's table-toppers this weekend."We don't want to go down there with a free-hit, nothing-to-lose mindset," said experienced flanker Tom Wood."We don't want to put undue pressure on ourselves but we don't want to see this as 'we've already succeeded and we'll go down there and see what happens'. We're going down there to win, and we've got to be really clear about that."We're going down there to give it everything, put everything we've got into this game so we can go to Twickenham and do the same again (on June 1)."You don't get many chances. In my first year here (2010/11) we went to the Heineken Cup final and it felt like we'd always be there. It felt like we'd always be competing for silverware and we haven't been anywhere near a Heineken Cup final since."We've fallen off the Premiership play-off positions in the past couple of years and you suddenly realise how difficult those things are to achieve."To let one slip because we think 'it's our first year under Chris Boyd, we've built nicely, we've made a big step in the right direction', isn't going to be good enough."We need to make sure we realise this is an opportunity, teams win it from fourth, it's two games, knockout rugby and we can beat anybody on our day."Let's not go down there, be a little too relaxed and think it doesn't matter as much as it does."Saints made six successive play-off semi-final appearances from 2010 to 2015, but the game against Leicester Tigers in May 2014 will perhaps live longest in the memory.Wood scored the winning try on an incredible night at Franklin's Gardens.And he said: "I snuck in there. I can't take much credit for it to be honest - the team did all of the work and I just fell over the line."That was a great occasion and it's been a couple of years without that kind of atmosphere and buzz around here."It's great that we're back in a position to deliver it again."My frustrations were evident over the past couple of years because I felt we always had the potential and more to give. It was disappointing we weren't managing to unlock it and get it out there on the pitch."This year, with a fresh start, new coaches coming in and youngsters stepping up we've put some great rugby on the pitch."We perhaps weren't that convincing getting into the top four - we snuck in there by the skin of our teeth - but we're there now and anything can happen."We've proved that on our day we can be a real handful for anybody."Saints lost 40-21 at Exeter last Saturday, eventually finishing fourth in the standings thanks to Harlequins' 27-25 defeat to Wasps.Wood knows Saints must deliver a much better performance this weekend, but games against the likes of Sale, in February, and Leicester, in March, have given him reason to believe."Sale here (when Saints won 67-17) was probably the main occasion where we actually put an 80 minutes together," Wood said."Sale are a really good team. They've taken some big scalps and to put that many points on them, it was as convincing a Premiership win as I've ever been a part of."I'd also say the first half at Leicester (when Saints won 29-15), which was one of the most dynamic performances we've put in."We know we've got it - it's about doing it away from home and doing it for a full 80 minutes."We can't afford to let Exeter get momentum because when they do, they're really hard to stop."