Weekend off comes at perfect time for injury-hit Saints

Chris Boyd is now preparing his players for next week's game at Newcastle
Chris Boyd is now preparing his players for next week's game at Newcastle

It might not have felt like it at the time, but Saints’ European Challenge Cup defeat at Clermont Auvergne could actually be a big help to Chris Boyd’s men.

That is because while Harlequins are slugging it out with the French giants in the semi-finals this weekend and Sale Sharks are squaring up to La Rochelle, Saints can kick back and have a weekend off.

And how they need it as they look to patch up some of the walking wounded from recent weeks.

They now have more than 20 injuries to contend with ahead of the final three matches of the Gallagher Premiership season.

But thanks to last Saturday’s dramatic 20-19 victory at the Stoop, Saints are right in the hunt for a play-off place.

And a well-earned rest will do them plenty of good as they prepare for a huge battle with a Newcastle Falcons side who will be fighting for their lives at Kingston Park next Friday night.

“We do need a break,” Boyd said.

“We have got a Wanderers fixture against Leicester (at Franklin’s Gardens) on Saturday and the main team have come in today (Thursday) to help them prepare for that. We think it’s really important that they do that.

“But we’ve had four or five days off this week, which is the first time we’ve been able to do that for a while, and it’s come at a really nice time.

“If we were going off to somewhere to play a European semi-final it would have been a tough old week and we might have been in trouble this weekend.”

Saints are now just four points behind Harlequins going into the final three matches of the Gallagher Premiership season.

And Boyd is now preparing for that intense fixture against the Falcons, who are currently seven points adrift at the bottom of the table.

He said: “The win last weekend was significant on a number of levels, particularly as Gloucester beat Bath and Worcester had a win over Sale.

“It opened a bit of a gap for us.

“We’ve got a tough game at Newcastle on a Friday night, which will be a huge game for them.

“We’re under no illusions about what we’re going to get up there, given that Worcester won.

“It’s still a dogfight at the bottom end there so I’m very happy we’re not having to contend with that.”

Boyd will hope Saints can summon up three more big efforts to book their play-off place, but he knows they will have to perform better than they did for the majority of the second half at the Stoop last weekend.

“I didn’t think our body language in the last 20 minutes was particularly good and they got on a roll,” Boyd said.

“They got a couple of lineouts, a coupleof scrums and a couple of penalties that gave them field position, but we hung in there.

“The disappointing thing for us was that we had more than enough opportunities to win that game comfortably.

“They defended really stoutly down in the corner for a long period of time.

“It would have been very disappointing if we’d lost that game.”