Northampton Saints suffered Premiership final heartache against Leicester Tigers last season but the following five reasons show why Ladbrokes’ price of 6/1 for them to lift the crown this campaign looks too long.
1. They have signed the best winger in the world.
George North’s try in the first British Lions Test against Australia was arguably the moment of the tour and were it not for the unwavering accuracy of Leigh Halfpenny’s boot, the 21-year-old would have been named man of the series. Saints held off competition from the big-spending clubs in France to secure his signature on a lucrative contract, but the winger’s ability to impose himself on the biggest stage is priceless.
2. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Leicester once again romped to victory in the Premiership final at Twickenham but only after Northampton’s hopes were buried by Dylan Hartley’s sending-off. Saints beat a menacing Saracens outfit in the semi-finals which not only showed off their unparalleled ability in the back division, but also an impressive resilience in the forward pack.
3. Dylan Hartley is a man on a mission.
Hartley said it was the worst moment of his rather colourful career when he was sent-off in last year’s final, citing letting his Saints team-mates down as worse than missing the British and Irish Lions tour. After some speculation, Malinder has now confirmed his faith by reinstating him as club captain.
4. They have replaced the big man.
Soane Tonga’huia has been the Premiership’s best loose-head in recent years and his departure will naturally hurt, as any world class player leaving a club would. But in Alex Corbisiero they have a man who thrived in the Lions environment after been called up as a late replacement. His opening score in the third and final Test was just reward for an outstanding tour.
5. England stars are ready to shine.
A fit Ben Foden is the most exciting counter-attacker in the Premiership and after completing a full pre-season, the Saints custodian is ready to win back his England shirt from Alex Goode. Utility forward Courtney Lawes remains on the England first team peripheries but the big second row’s bone-crunching tackles give him a unique edge.