Wood employs Saints to show more fight

Tom Wood wants Northampton to have a cornered animal instinct about them when they face fierce Aviva Premiership rivals Leicester on Saturday.

Saints are tasked with warding off a 20-year Premiership low by stopping the Tigers trampling all over Franklin’s Gardens.

They have not lost their opening two games of a league season since the inaugural Premiership campaign in 1997 when Harlequins and Newcastle beat them.

But after being smashed 55-24 by Saracens last weekend — Northampton conceded seven first-half tries — Leicester’s short trip down the M1 takes on added importance.

“There has got to be some of that [cornered animal] because I think we lacked that last weekend,” said Saints’ England international flanker Wood, who claimed two touchdowns last Saturday but misses out this weekend due to a shoulder problem.

“There does have to be some blood and guts about it. There always is with Leicester derbies anyway, so hopefully we won’t be found wanting there.

“But you’ve got to control it as well. It’s got to be a concerted team effort — everybody can’t just go crazy and start beating their chests.

“It’s how we make Leicester uncomfortable, get into our own game and give the crowd something to cheer about.

“Defence has been a big focus [this week] because our defence was woeful.

“Everyone is taking that on the chin, and some individuals have had to put their hands up over some missed tackles, but collectively, we didn’t have the front-foot, aggressive mentality that we needed to take on Saracens.

“Everyone wants to get off on a positive note, so to have a reality check like that on the first day is pretty painful.”

Recent history supports a Leicester win. They have beaten Northampton sevens times on the bounce in all competitions, while Tigers are also on the rebound, having suffered a first Premiership home defeat against Bath for 14 years last weekend.

Saints, though, currently look a proverbial mile off threatening to recapture the heights of three years ago, when they were crowned Premiership champions.

“That is the biggest frustration in the camp,” Wood added. “We’ve got so much international talent here, and we’ve been to those heights.

“We know what it feels like, so to be where we are at the moment is desperately frustrating. We are all looking for the answers.

“I can guarantee it’s not a lack of work ethic or want of trying, it’s just getting things to come together. It is painful to be where we are now, knowing what the good times feel like.

“Everybody comes in for a lot of stick. It’s easy when you’re winning. When you lose, you are all under pressure to perform.

“We’ve got to make sure we pull tight and deliver the goods. When we start winning again, all that pressure goes away. There are no splits — the team is highly motivated — there is just a lot of frustration.

“Leicester will be wounded as well. They were beaten at home last week, and we were humiliated. If an east midlands derby needed any extra edge, it’s going to have it this weekend I would imagine.”