Barbarians push Northampton Saints hard in Gallagher Premiership preseason

Barbarians push Northampton Saints hard in Gallagher Premiership preseason

The ongoing 2023/24 Gallagher Premiership preseason has heated up, and not just due to a long summer. The Barbarians FC became a ‘player’ last weekend when they pushed the Northampton Saints hard at Franklin’s Gardens.

In a type of festival game atmosphere, spectators will have enjoyed the 12-48 win to the Baabaas, though Saints ‘dye in the wool’ fans could be disappointed in the blowout scoreline. Not a belting though, just a steady wave that the understrength home side could not hold out.

Several factors were at hand on Sunday. The critical element being to build to the opening of the 2023/24 Gallagher Premiership on October 13. Then there were ulterior motives, such as new signings and freshly promoted Academy talent gaining opportunities where it is available. These would be in preseason games, and preparations for the early start to the new Premiership Rugby Cup competition, that now includes many Championship clubs too.

Follow Last Word on Rugby for lead-in features and profiles, ahead of the competition start, including Gallagher Premiership preseason matches.

Barbarians push Northampton Saints hard in Gallagher Premiership preseason

Director of RugbyPhil Dowson praised his young stars. He was quoted by Northampton Saints website as commenting on his groups performance, “We had a lot of opportunities in the first half and we didn’t convert any,” said Dowson. “Every single turnover went the other way. We weren’t quick enough on transition.

“I am a bit disappointed with the first half because we conceded so many and a lot of that came from turnovers. Our skill execution wasn’t where you’d expect it to be.”

“Clearly there were things in our setpiece, in our defence and our attack which weren’t where we’d want them to be but a lot of it was very good and we showed a bit heart to come back.”

For young men like Northampton Saints fullback George Hendy it was an opportunity not usually found in the regulation preseason fixture list. He remarked: “There have been opportunities for lads who don’t normally get to wear the shirt consistently throughout the season.

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“You may not get a long string of games together, so these first matches have been really exciting for a lot of the younger lads who have just come into the environment to all get together, represent the shirt, and just get some game time together and enjoy ourselves out there”.

An occasion that few other sides can say they have had the honour to play in. And in a repeat of this schedule, the Baabaas will go on to face the Bristol Bears on Thursday, September 7.

A great example of teams engaging the famous brand outside of national teams, which bring positive media attention and a different type of opponent than these clubs will face during their upcoming calendars.

In similar matches from the Scottish border down to the Dorset coastline, warm-up fixtures were held across this last weekend. There were also cross-competition warm-up games, like Harlequins v Leinster at the Twickenham Stoop last Saturday. The United Rugby Championship team triumphed, yet with so many players *removed due to the Rugby World Cup, it would provide limited indications of a side’s progression towards the 2023/24 season start.

Gallagher Premiership preseason provides some early indicators

What should be drawn from the results then? If Bristol go the way of Northampton, it will only be a step that many sides take each year before the season begins. It will not bring a great deal. A win though, a win would be sensational. So Bristol still has that chance [just as this article is published]. Win against the Barbarians FC, and it counts for much, much more.

A bonus for each club will be that there were no major injuries to speak of. A key to any team’s effort – even at the International level. Complete your set task and be ready for the next day’s training, will be a positive outcome. Fitter too for the added contact that clubs who played either another Premiership club or the Baabaas, will enjoy.

Pushing the emphasis from the gym onto the field, all Gallagher Premiership preseason matches reward those who run out on the field.

Each backroom will also be rewarded. With data on the athlete’s anaerobic fitness, if they hit full speed, their strengths and weaknesses (at this point of the calendar). As well as their individual goals; most will know from the minutes played how well they impacted the match whilst being involved.

If not those metrics, then by simply participating in a formal fixture. No unopposed training sessions, pads or set modules, only in developing defensive and offensive patterns. Win or lose, you can draw plenty from how individuals contribute. How well they gel in combinations, in backline/forward pack, to when the tactics were applied well – and when not as well. All learnings you might hear assistant coaches say.

Barbarians players have been drawn on from men including the touring Wallabies B team, so were brought together in the same relaxed yet motivated manner, that all Baabaas groups are assembled within. Taking enjoyment from participating too, as well as playing an integral part in several sides’ development towards the season start. And like these games have been, all 10 Premiership Rugby clubs must use the remaining time before Round One to settle their *reduced squad’s nerves and be prepared for their next opponent.

 * reduced squads due to the 2023 Rugby World Cup being played from September 8 til October 29.


“Main photo credit Wikimedia Creative Commons
Maillot du Barbarian Football Club