Northampton hire former Eddie Jones coach Alan Gaffney until the end of the season | Rugby Union | Sport

2 months ago

And the changes at the Gardens have not come a moment too soon according to experienced back Ben Foden.

Australian Gaffney, 71, who was in charge of Saracens between 2006 and 2008, will take office on New Year’s Day at the club who sacked director of rugby Jim Mallinder a fortnight ago.

Saints play Harlequins at Twickenham today in front of an anticipated crowd of over 70,000 in Big Game 10, and in front of a terrestrial TV audience, on the back of 11 losses in 12 games in all competitions.

And Gaffney has had an immediate stroke of luck with the news that Wales wing George North is back from a knee injury and will take his place on the bench at HQ after being out since October 15.

Mallinder’s sacking after 10 years as director of rugby at Northampton saw Foden lose the man who mentored him at Sale and the Saints and saw him win 34 England caps.

But the 32-year-old admitted it was the time for change if the club are to get back to the form that saw them win the Premiership title in 2014. 

“It was disappointing because Jim has been a big part of my career and a big influence on me as a player and it was sad to see him go,” said Foden.

“Obviously it is a massive change but inevitably everyone saw it coming because there needed to be a change. Things weren’t going well.

“We are in a professional sport and we are performance-based and that is what we are going to be judged on. Things have not gone quite to plan for probably the last two seasons and a change needed to be made.”

Apart from his stint at Saracens, Gaffney has worked with Munster, Leinster, the NSW Waratahs and the Ireland team and is currently the elite programmes coach for Rugby Australia.

In his final game picking the team temporary head coach Alan Dickens has promoted Tom Wood from the bench and also has Stephen Myler back among the replacements.

Quins have lost five out of their last six in all competitions and the so-called Big Game has the air of a two middling teams scrapping it out to find some form.

Foden added: “They are probably equivalent to us in terms of they want to achieve big things and they have been underachieving this year. It is a chance for both teams to get things back on track and finish the year on a high at least.”

Quins have Danny Care back at scrum-half after he missed the 11-10 defeat to Newcastle last weekend.

At Allianz Park, Saracens have captain Brad Barritt back from concussion to lead the team against Worcester and flanker Michael Rhodes makes his first start of the season after a shoulder injury.

Rhodes came off the bench in the 29-17 win over Leicester last Sunday, a victory that stopped a run of seven straight defeats for the European champions.

Worcester have won three out of four in the Premiership to ease their relegation fears but have been forced to promote Sam Olver to fly-half because of Jono Lance’s broken hand.

Elsewhere in the Premiership, bottom-placed London Irish entertain Newcastle in Reading with Johnny Williams recalled at centre while the Falcons bring in Alex Tait on the wing for injured Sinoti Sinoti.

Sale, fresh from beating Bath 32-9 in the last round, call up Marland Yarde to the bench for their trip to Gloucester.