Northampton seek to resolve prop crisis ahead of daunting Exeter clash

‘We’re not taking the p***. We are just looking to get someone who can play safely’: Northampton boss Chris Boyd seeks to resolve prop crisis ahead of daunting Exeter clash

  • Northampton have been plunged into a prop injury crisis
  • The Saints are desperately seeking emergency assistance for Sunday’s tie
  • Manny Iyogun, 19, is currently Saints’ only fit and available loosehead option

Northampton remained locked in a dispute on Wednesday night with European tournament organisers EPCR over safety fears about their shortage of available loosehead props to face Exeter.

The Saints are preparing to pitch teenage rookie Emmanuel Iyogun into their starting XV for the daunting Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final at Sandy Park on Sunday, due to the injury crisis which has left them without four players.

The risky scenario is compounded by the refusal of EPCR to amend their regulations and allow the East Midlands club to bring in an emergency specialist prop.

Northampton rugby director Chris Boyd says he is still waiting for an answer from EPCR

Talks were continuing and while the fixture is not in jeopardy, it could be reduced to a farce if Northampton have no back-up in the pivotal position.

Director of rugby Chris Boyd has been frantically trying to recruit someone and avert the threat of uncontested scrums undermining a marquee occasion, but red tape and the Covid pandemic have hampered his efforts.

‘Yesterday we tried to see if we could convert one of our four tightheads into a loosehead and that was spectacularly unsuccessful,’ said Boyd. ‘We had a scrum session at seven in the morning to see if anybody felt remotely comfortable doing that. Ben Franks likened it to playing golf and trying to change from right hand to left hand, so that was ruled out.

‘We have rung Scottish clubs, Irish clubs, Welsh clubs and every Championship club. We’ve had all sorts of people flinging their c.v. at us — a Brazilian and a Portuguese guy. Everyone either has Covid restrictions or visa restrictions. We’ve even looked at who has retired in the last three years who might be doing nothing.

Manny Iyogun, 19, is currently Saints’ only fit and available loosehead option for Sunday

‘We’ve had a couple of clubs offer us their fourth-choice loosehead — a youngster who hasn’t played any rugby — and we might have to take somebody like that. But we need to get approval.

‘We face a situation where we have a youngster with zero experience, so we went back to EPCR to plead our case. Currently we still have no ruling from EPCR.

‘We are not looking to get a significant advantage. We are just looking to get someone who can play safely and we would be hopeful that common sense prevails.’

The Saints are gearing up to either go into Sunday’s game with 22 players rather than 23, or name a non-specialist as loosehead cover and go to uncontested scrums if he is called upon. Boyd made it clear that he will prioritise the safety of his players over the integrity of the tournament.

Asked about the novice who he will have to select to wear the No 1 shirt, Boyd added: ‘Manny is a 19-year-old who has played all his rugby at No 8 and has never really played in a men’s scrum before. He is very, very inexperienced.

‘The fact he’s going to start in a European quarter-final after being in a senior scrum for only 60 minutes is a massively big ask.’

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