Saints star Wood: Meaningless matches don't exist

"For us as players, the idea of a dead rubber doesn't exist."

Thursday, 11th January 2018, 6:00 pm
Tom Wood helped Saints to secure a vital win against Gloucester last Saturday (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Those are the words of Saints flanker Tom Wood, who was typically animated when asked if Saturday's game against Clermont Auvergne was a meaningless match for his team.

Saints currently sit bottom of Champions Cup Pool 2 with just one point to their name.

It has been a horrible tournament for the green, black and gold, who have shipped a try bonus point in every one of their four matches.

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But the idea of them simply rolling over and having their bellies tickled by table-topping Clermont is not entering the though process of the players of Northampton.

Instead, they know they have a chance to claim a sizeable scalp and add to the momentum garnered from last Saturday's previous 22-19 Aviva Premiership victory against Gloucester.

"You're a professional player playing against some of the best opposition in Europe on the big stage and you're a competitive animal," Wood said.

"You want to win games and the idea of turning up and going through the motions, practicing systems doesn't exist.

"We're here to win and we need to get back into that winning habit.

"We probably felt aggrieved that we didn't beat Clermont out there.

"A few things didn't go our way with yellow cards and other things and that's the nature of it, but we're here to right that and get what we deserve this weekend."

Saints had only won one of their previous 13 games before beating Gloucester.

And now they are desperate to use last Saturday's success as a platform to bring some good times back to Franklin's Gardens in 2018.

"It's been miserable," Wood said.

"People don't know where to point the finger and they start questioning effort. It's never a case of effort.

"You just need that collective buy-in, that understanding and that togetherness, which we've lacked at times.

"Hopefully we get it back in our game and we start winning some of these close ones, get some momentum back and become the Saints of old."

The Saints of old would win games even when it looked far from likely.

And Wood recalled the September 2009 meeting between Northampton and the team he was playing for at the time, Worcester Warriors.

The Warriors had taken a 17-0 lead, only for tries from Phil Dowson and Paul Diggin, allied with points from the boots of Stephen Myler and Shane Geraghty, to earn Saints a 20-17 Premiership opening-day success at the Gardens.

Wood explained: "I was playing against Dylan (Hartley) and Dows for Worcester and we were 17-0 up on the first day of the season here at Franklin's Gardens.

"Dows was playing for Saints for the first time and he was getting worried towards the back end of the game, but Dylan told him to calm down and said 'we win these'.

"To my frustration, they did manage to win it.

"Shane Geraghty and the likes came off the bench and turned it around.

"And that was kind of the message. Courtney (Lawes) spoke about next job mentality last week and we needed to stay positive.

"In the last few minutes we need to have confidence and say to ourselves 'we win these at home'.

"That's what the Saints' confidence has been like in the past and we needed to get back to it.

"It almost became a bit of a jokey saying, but we lived it and we delivered it last weekend. That was the difference."