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Adam Hathaway, rugby correspondent of The People, wonders what was behind Northampton’s shock win at Leicester at the weekend and says, yet again, Eddie Jones must look over the Channel this summer.
It is amazing how people behave when there is new guv’nor on the manor.
You know what it is like, you hear there is a new top dog coming into your office and it is all polished shoes, turning up on time and making sure the kettle is full.
You might even bring biscuits into work.
Shame on you for not doing that for your old boss but that is the way of the world and that is how it has been at one of England’s most famous clubs.
Northampton haven’t turned up on time all season, they have barely turned up at all, and if they were wearing shoes they certainly weren’t polished. For quite a lot of the time they have played as if they were not even wearing boots.
But they were on the money at the weekend when they turned up and turned over one of their neighbours.
Saints arrived at Welford Road to play Leicester on Saturday having not won there in the league since 2007.
They arrived at Welford Road on a run of five straight defeats, out of Europe having performed their dismal version of Brexit and out of contention for a Champions Cup spot next year.
They arrived at Welford Road without Courtney Lawes, Dylan Hartley and Tom Wood.
They arrived at Welford Road on the back of a 63-13 shellacking by Saracens at home the previous week when Sarries scored 48 points in the second half and Saints were an embarrassment to the club that gave us Dickie Jeeps, Jeff Butterfield and Steve Thompson.
They arrived at Welford Road with Wood’s comments that the club had downed tools since winning the Premiership in 2014 ringing in their ears. The flanker, a brilliantly honest talker when dealing with the press, also said that winning that title was the worst thing that could have happened to the club.
And staggeringly Northampton left Welford Road with a 27-21 win in the bag, against a team who really did have something to play for, after a nut job of a game which started with Saints losing their captain Rob Horne in the first minute when he was carted off to Leicester Royal Infirmary.
Was it all a coincidence?
Not really – they were just sucking up to the new boss.
On Monday this week the Kiwi Chris Boyd, currently coaching at the Hurricanes, was due to jet in for a visit to the club.
He takes over as head honcho at Franklin’s Gardens as soon as his Super Rugby commitments are over in Wellington and he can really get stuck into, what is a mammoth job, turning a failing club around.
The Hurricanes have won six from seven in Super Rugby so far this year and look they will go deep into the tournament so Boyd may not turn up permanently until after the final on 4 August.
Preparations for next season will be in full swing by then so Boyd is keeping everyone at Northampton on their toes by showing his face right now.
He needs to because before Saturday they have been a shambles since getting gubbed by Saracens at Twickenham on the opening weekend of the season. They had a bit of a rally after that 55-24 destruction but that had all turned to dust by Christmas.
But with the news their next boss was going to be in town Northampton dredged a performance up from the gutter they have been in all year.
We wonder why?
Some of the players on display on Saturday do not have contracts next year yet so that may have something to do with it.
Pride in the shirt, paying the fans back for playing like drains all season, getting one over their East Midlands rivals and good old professional pride all come into it for sure.
But to a cynic like RugbySpy getting in the new gaffer’s good book was the biggest motivation.
We asked Alan Dickens, who is temporary head coach with Aussie Alan Gaffney as a consultant, how to explain the turnaround.
He said: “Can you? Because I don’t know. Attitudes were questioned last week from outside the club.
“It is tough for players when you are leaving and not sure where you are going for your next job. We had players who played today who haven’t got a contract, so I thought it just shows what you can do when you pull together.”
Why didn’t they pull together before? That is something for Boyd to get to the bottom of and from what people have told RugbySpy he is not one to beat about the bush.
Boyd is a 59-year-old native of Wellington who has been around the block and he is no-one’s idea of a B-list Kiwi who has been hired just because he has got a New Zealand accent.
There are a few of them around though.
He was given the job in January, after Jim Mallinder was given the Spanish archer – El Bow – in December, and has popped into the club once since.
Mallinder must have wondered who the blokes were in the garish lime green shirts on Saturday when he doing a bit of pitch-side stuff for BT Sport.
And if Boyd has watched any of their recent performances he must have wondered who they were. RugbySpy certainly didn’t recognise them.
This time Boyd must mean business. He was due to go in to have a look at pre-season planning and you can bet your bottom Kiwi dollar he was going to have a shufty at the contract situations of the playing staff.
And he has got a decent CV if any of the players give it the old ‘show us your medals’ cobblers.
Boyd won the Super Rugby title with the Hurricanes in 2016, after being runners-up in 2015, and has had stints with the New Zealand Under-20s, Wellington Lions, Tonga and the Sharks in South Africa.
In that 2016 season the Canes did not concede a try in the Super Rugby play-offs. Northampton could have done with him being on board when they were being shredded and conceding nine tries to Saracens.
And that was a Hurricanes team that had lost the likes of Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu who went to France after winning the World Cup with New Zealand in 2015.
If you can handle losing those two players then you obviously know something about the game.
He has worked at the International Rugby Academy of New Zealand and has been a high performance coach advisor.
Boyd knows his onions and so did the Northampton players when they finally decided to put a shift in at the weekend.
Because, as all of us who work in the real world know, when your new boss turns up you had better make sure you turn up too.
And put the kettle on.
**
RugbySpy has been banging this drum for a long time and if you are bored with our campaigning for Chris Ashton to get back into the England team please change channels now.
Because across the Channel Ashton scored his 22nd try of the Top14 campaign for Toulon on Saturday as they whipped the leaders Montpellier 32-17 at the brilliant Stade Felix Mayol.
Ashton’s score in the seventh minute took him past the previous best mark set by the Fijian Napolioni Nalaga who scored 21 in Clermont colours in the 2008-09 season.
We have already written about how Ashton got the dog-mess covered end of the stick when he was suspended for a ridiculous alleged gouging offence in 2016 whilst he was at Saracens.
He was in Eddie Jones’ England squad then but was then left on the outside looking in and decamped to the south of France.
That cut short an international career of 39 caps and 19 tries and it was nuts.
Ashton had the hump all right but he is revitalised, loving life – even as a ginger nut in the sun – and even putting in a fair few shifts as a full-back.
Ashton is a finisher.
His lines of running and willingness to track the ball are only matched, as a winger, by Exeter’s Jack Nowell.
Jones needs the dreaded ‘exceptional circumstances’ to pick a player who is plying his trade outside of the Premiership for England.
England have a three-Test tour to South Africa this summer. Against a Bok side who are now allowed to pick their European-based players and a Bok side who are baying for blood after a desperate run.
Jones will have to pick some exceptional players for that little jaunt.
And 22 tries in the French league is exceptional enough for us.
As one famous sportswear manufacturer would say.

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