It’s been a stop-start season so far for Sharks’ very own Eagle. But six weeks after picking up a neck injury in the draw at London Irish, AJ MacGinty is back in the 10 shirt this evening, starting a Gallagher Premiership game for only the second time this season.
And while some players might have taken the opportunity to have a rest away from rugby, AJ has been watching plenty of games to make sure he hits the ground running – starting today.
“I watch a lot of games, but often with the commentary off, or if I’m in the stadium I like to be high up so I can see everything that’s going on,” AJ said. “I never watch a game from start to finish on TV – I’m constantly pausing it to see how an attack has lined up or to see how a team has done something differently.
“I’ve always been like that. I’m a West Ham supporter and I remember a few years ago I went to the Etihad Stadium to watch Manchester City v West Ham. Our seats were right at the back, as high as possible and I loved it because I could see exactly what was happening and how Pep Guardiola was lining his team up. You see so much more than you ever could on TV.”
As the captain of the USA team, and a big American Football fan, AJ has also taken plenty of inspiration from one of the NFL’s biggest names.
“I love watching Tom Brady and the way he communicates with the team,” he said. “How he’s completely in sync with the rest of the team. That’s how it should be and I think it’s maybe where we haven’t been quite clicking this season.
“Last weekend against Worcester that stats were incredible. It’s probably the longest time we’ve ever spent in an opposition’s 22, but yet we only scored 14 points. Against Northampton we need to win the kicking game, and get territory, but we need to turn it into points.
“This week has been all about how we attack with purpose, in sync and how we turn that pressure and that territory into points against a really good Saints side who like to throw the ball around.
We know we need to shut them down and put in a massive, collective effort on both sides of the ball if we’re going to win.”
Sharks’ defeat against Worcester last time out was their fourth loss of the season – but AJ says he’s seen plenty to be positive about while he’s been unavailable.
“Of course we’re disappointed with how it’s gone this season but we can’t dwell on it because that takes away your ability to perform in the next game,” he said. “One thing I’ve learned through my career is that you have to stay in the moment, stay neutral and that negativity has a massive impact on your ability to perform.
“We can’t get carried away when we win or when we lose.
“Against Northampton, we need to be in sync, and the same thought processes have to be going through all 15 heads. When that happens, that’s so powerful.”
In AJ’s absence, academy graduates Kieran Wilkinson and Tom Curtis have stepped up to the plate – and the 31 year old says he sees a big future for them, as well as young scrum halves Raffi Quirke, Gus Warr and Nye Thomas.
“The young lads have been outstanding. Their ability and their composure have really impressed me. Getting Premiership action at their age is incredible experience for them. But they deserve it for the work they’ve been putting in.
“It’s an exciting time for the club but we need to get back on track starting this weekend. It’s a massive opportunity for us and I can’t wait.”