Northampton Saints captain Tom Wood admits that the club’s recent track record with ill-discipline is becoming a problem.
Wood, his face still showing the effects of an outstanding personal defensive effort for his side that ultimately was for nothing, was recalling recent bans for Kieran Brookes and Calum Clark, after England captain Dylan Hartley was shown a red card against Leinster.
Hartley is now expected to receive a ban for his swinging arm to the head of Ireland flanker Sean O’Brien in another setback for the struggling Premiership outfit.
“I don’t want to talk too much about Dylan himself, but as a club the discipline is becoming an issue,” Wood said.
“We have had three or four hearings in the last few weeks. In the Saracens game we had a man yellow carded when we were right in the fight. They’re accumulating.
“You can forgive any one individual or any one-off, but there must be some sort of underlying issue at the minute that we have to address.”
Asked to explain why Saints were continually losing their cool in big matches, Wood put it down to over-eagerness to fix a season that continues to slip away.
“I don’t know if it’s individual responsibility or frustration bringing that out in people, because let’s face it we’re not on the form that we like and maybe are trying to solve problems and show how up for it they are,” Wood added.
To make matters worse, Hartley’s sending off happened during a passage of play that had seen Northampton scrap their way back into contention, having been largely outclassed by creative Leinster side who failed to make the most of their chances.
Wood, one of England’s best performers during November, admitted the “flat” start his side showed was a symptom of the club’s larger issues.
“It was a dreadful start by us. We spoke all week about having a big start and coming out of the blocks but we were just flat,” Wood explained.
“We stood and watched them for 20 minutes. They’re too good to do that against. We could have played reallly well tonight and still got beaten. What’s disappointing is that we didn’t play for large parts.”
Northampton will undoubtedly look back on this week as one of the most testing in their history, with Hartley’s red card following ongoing scrutiny regarding the health of George North.
Wood’s final comments are only likely to ring alarm bells ahead of the return trip to Dublin next weekend.
“It’s everyone. We’re lacking some belief, some togetherness and some identity,” he said.
“We don’t feel like we’re together at the minute. I’m searching for answer because we’ve got to solve the problem pretty quickly.”