Premiership Preview: Northampton Saints
Last Season: 11st, semi finalists
Top Tryscorer: Samu Manoa (8)
Top Pointscorer: Stephen Myler (236)
A barnstorming year saw them top the table. With a packed ground every week, no side relished a trip to Franklin’s Gardens. After winning their first title a year earlier, a stunning start to the season followed, including a 53-6 win over Gloucester on the opening night and 43-10 win over Sale Sharks in October.
Despite the inevitable twists and turns throughout the year, Saints remained a constant at the top as they eventually edged out Bath in the battle for top spot. However, their good work was undone in the semi-finals by Saracens, who stole a 24-29 win away from home to reach the final. That disappointment should provide all the motivation they need for a better year this time round.
The Coach: Jim Mallinder
Mallinder is another of the promising Yorkshire-produced coaches to grace the Premiership this year. After taking Sale from 11th to second in the league in his first year in charge, he was quickly snapped up by England, where he served as Academy and Saxons coach.
He took over at Northampton in 2007 and has overseen a remarkable rise to the top of the game. After a shock relegation, Mallinder was tasked with bringing his new side up from the Championship and he achieved it with ease, guiding his side to 30 wins from 30 games before finishing eighth in the top tier the year after.
A number of European trophies followed before their rise to the top was complete in 2013/14 with their first Premiership title. But, after finishing top of the table last year, a huge task is ahead if more domestic success is to come their way once again.
Key Man: George North
Prediction: 3rd, semi finalists again
In a year of change for the reigning minor premiers, it could be a difficult year ahead. The loss of last year’s leading scorer Samu Manoa is a huge one and the gap he leaves will take some filling. Their recruitment, which includes the surprise signing of recently retired 38-year-old lock Victor Matfield, hasn’t inspired set the world alight. With sides like Bath and Saracens as strong as ever, retaining their top four status will be a big achievement. Odds for Title: 11/4.