‘We have to be happy making mistakes to get better’

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Investec Champions Cup semi-final

Venue: Croke Park, Dublin Date: Saturday, 4 May Time: 17:30 BST

“You have to embrace the right types of mistakes. That is how you get better.”

Most coaches urge their players to eradicate unforced errors, but Sam Vesty seems to encourage them.

He is the man responsible for the exciting brand of attacking rugby which has propelled Northampton Saints to the top of the Premiership table and into a first Investec Champions Cup semi-final since 2011.

Four-time winners Leinster stand in their way of reaching the showpiece of European club rugby, but Vesty has not lost sight of his philosophy.

“I love the fact that there are several ways of playing the game,” the Saints attacking coach told Look East.

“Creating space with speed and physicality, or with a kicking game. I like it played quickly with minimal stoppages, which brings out the best for spectators and really floats my boat.

“I like to give the players loads of different problems and then help them on their journey to solve those problems as confident decision makers.

“With that you will make loads of mistakes, bad decisions and errors but we have to be happy in that environment where we want to learn and get better.”

Leicester-born Vesty was a utility back for hometown club Tigers as a player, but has since crossed the East Midlands divide as a coach.

The 42-year-old, who won two England caps in 2009, is keen to learn the lessons from his own career.

“As a player, I had coaches who wanted to play with freedom and then as soon as there was a mistake they screamed, ‘Don’t do that, look after the ball’,” recalled Vesty.

“Learning is not a drill and it doesn’t look pretty or amazing. If it does, you’re not learning anything because the pressure isn’t high enough.

“The higher pressure you live under, the better you will be.”

Vesty is aware of the sizeable challenge at Croke Park, where Northampton’s travelling supporters will be heavily outnumbered by vociferous Dubliners.

But, for now, he wants to instil a sense of calm.

“It’s just a rugby game and that is our focus,” said Vesty. “The same prep with the same mindset.

“The boys are taking ownership and have really matured. They hold each other to account and it comes out in tough moments. They are solving problems with calm heads.”

Saints will want to attack Leinster when they get the opportunity, but their biggest questions are likely to come in defence.

The man charged with maintaining their resilience is defence coach Lee Radford, who wants to “keep things simple” in Ireland.

“Ultimately you’ve got to want to defend,” Radford, a former rugby league player and coach with Hull, told Sport. “We are going to have to be bang at it.

“It’s a niche of a person who gets up off the canvas when he’s been smacked in the mouth.

“It’s a special person that wants to play in these sort of games. We have to bring the energy and effort and put our DNA on the field.”

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