ALEX WALLER is used to chopping things down to size in his woodwork shed.
Although last season, the talented prop-turned chippy’s Northampton Saints were well and truly stumped by fierce rivals Saracens.
Four games. Four defeats. Oh. . . and 237 points shipped to the Premiership champions.
Saints were sinners and Sarries were grinners.
But carpenter and captain Waller reckons his new-look side can pull-up trees at Franklin’s Gardens again.
Speaking to SunSport from his Northamptonshire workshop, he said: “The Sarries defeats were a bit of a humbler.
“They are a great team and their trophy cabinet speaks for itself. But it was difficult to take. To have four of those in a season was pretty disappointing. . .and upsetting.
“It left a bitter taste in the mouth and everyone was saying everything under the sun on social media – so you want to prove them wrong and give the fans some redemption.
This weekend’s rugby
Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks (Saturday, 3pm, Sandy Park)
JACK NOWELL makes his first Chiefs start of the season as Rob Baxter’s side look to keep up their 100 per cent win record.
Sale Sharks are boosted by the return of Tom Curry, who replaces twin brother Ben at openside.
Harlequins v Bath (Saturday, 3pm, The Stoop)
JOE MARLER has recovered from a dead leg start start in the front row – but Quins are without crocked Mike Brown, Jack Clifford and Kyle Sinckler.
Wales second row Luke Charteris captains Bath as they look to pick up their first win of the season.
Worcester Warriors v Newcastle Falcons (Saturday, 3pm, Sixways)
PREMIERSHIP player-of-the-year Niki Goneva misses out through injury for Newcastle Falcons – so Adam Radwan comes in for the flying Fijian.
Warriors welcome Francois Hougaard back to their starting line-up – but England centre Ben Te’o is still out.
Wasps v Leicester Tigers (Sunday, 3pm, Ricoh Arena)
LIMA SOPOAGA makes his full debut for Wasps after the fly-half arrived at the club from New Zealand this month.
Manu Tuilagi (pictured) makes his century of Tigers appearances after scoring the try of the round last week – Dan Cole marks his double ton in the front row.
“I’m looking forward to flying in on Saturday, though. We’re an ambitious club and we want to win trophies and reward our supporters after the last few years.
“I’m very optimistic for this season, but it’s a building process now under Chris Boyd and hopefully the future is bright. Every morning I wake up and I’m like: ‘Yeah, sweet – let’s go to work.’
“Hopefully that will show on the pitch. I think there’s a better feel now around the town, too, from speaking to fans when I’ve been out shopping anyway.
“I was a fan and I still am, so I understand where supporters are coming from.”
The local lad is as tough as the east midlands oak that he is currently crafting to make a bespoke coffee table.
Like Saints’ re-building process, both will take time.
Three years for the oak to dry out after collecting it from teammate Tom Wood’s store.
Hopefully less for Saints to challenge for trophies again – after going four years without a major title.
It all started with just a few bits and pieces and now it’s snowballed. I’m not spiritual, but it’s almost like a form of meditation.
Academy graduate Waller fell into woodworking on his days off after buying a house from a guy who had a boat shed in his back yard.
The 28-year-old said: “It all started with just a few bits and pieces and now it’s snowballed. I’m not spiritual, but it’s almost like a form of meditation.
“And it’s a nice way to take your mind off things after a day of scrums.
“The only thing I’m allowed to make for the house is a new kitchen table and a built-in wardrobe upstairs. The workshop is my domain and the houses is the missus’.”
Carving a new trophy cabinet would also be a dream for Waller who has grown into captain material at Saints thanks to the guidance of England skipper Dylan Hartley.
The front-row pair now share the duties – with Hartley expected to lead Eddie Jones’ Red Rose this autumn, leaving Waller the keys to the Gardens.
He said: “Dylan is a great bloke to have around – he’s done a great job for England as well as being Northampton’s most-successful captain.
“When I was about 18 Dylan took me under his wing a bit and looked after me. Now I consider him one of my best mates at the club.
“There are no better blokes to learn off. I’m enjoying it – there’s the added pressure – but I am trying to learn and hopefully I am doing okay so far.
“It’s a massive honour and privilege for me, being from Northampton.
“Having grown up watching the club, then playing with guys like Bruce Reihana and Dylan, it’s something I am immensely proud of.”
Waller also has Hartley to thank for his unusual nickname, Sue. . .
I don’t even answer to Alex anymore, everyone calls me Sue. Even when I’m at mum’s for dinner and her boyfriend calls out ‘Sue’, I turn around.
The loosehead said: “Sue is my mum’s name. . .when I was in the academy mum came to a shirt sponsor’s day without telling me, because her friend was a shirt sponsor.
“Dyls was chatting to a group of people and I thought it was good idea to introduce my mum to the captain. So I said: ‘Dylan, this is my mum, Sue. Sue, this is Dylan.’ And that was it.
“I don’t even answer to Alex anymore, everyone calls me Sue. Even when I’m at mum’s for dinner and her boyfriend calls out ‘Sue’, I turn around.”
Call him want you want, Waller just wants to make sure Northampton Saints is name that is feared again.