Victor Matfield reveals Northampton will go back to basics to kickstart season
Victor Matfield has revealed Northampton will go back to basics in the hope of igniting their season after senior players invoked the values of the club during an inquest into their poor start.
Saints host second-placed Exeter at Franklin's Gardens on Friday night having lost four of their seven Aviva Premiership matches, leaving them six points adrift of the play-offs.
The lowest point of the campaign arrived with the 25-23 defeat at relegation candidates London Irish on Boxing Day, a result that prompted a period of introspection during a meeting of senior players that included former South Africa captain Matfield.
"This season been pretty difficult. One good game, one bad game, so we're very up and down," Matfield told BT Sport.
"We got together on Wednesday and I was fortunate enough to get called into the seniors' meetings for the first time.
"The guys were talking about the DNA of Northampton and what Saints stand for. I don't want to go through what that is, but it's about getting back to that.
"What makes us good? What makes us a great team? What do we stand for?
"We talked about going back to basics. If you do the basics very well, even if teams know what you're going to do, you become very difficult to stop."
Dylan Hartley, the favourite to be named England captain for the RBS 6 Nations, drops to the bench despite making his comeback from concussion against Irish. Mike Haywood starts at hooker.
While Northampton were crumbling at the Madejski Stadium, Exeter were busy amassing their sixth Premiership win of the campaign at the expense of Sale.
Chiefs director of rugby Rob Baxter views Saints' woes as merely a blip.
"Results would say they are having a bit of a down patch, but teams like Northampton that traditionally tend to end up around that top four are able to deal with sticky patches when they come along," Baxter said.
"That's a quality that we still aspire too, but Northampton are a side that are able to come through those patches strongly enough and still be challenging at the right end of the table come the end of the season."
Exeter start England back row Tom Johnson at openside ahead of Julian Salvi.