Years in Top Tier: 22
Last Year: Champions (2nd in Prem 75 points), Group Stage Heineken Cup, Amlin Challenge Cup Champions, Anglo-Welsh Cup beaten Finalists
Europe: Heineken Cup
Director of Rugby: Jim Mallinder
In: Joel Hodgson (Newcastle), Jon Fisher (London Irish)
Out: GJ Van Velze (Worcester), Tom Warren (Moseley), Ryan Glynn (Jersey), Paul Diggin (Retirement), Fa’atoina Autagavaia (Nevers), Rob Verbakel (Unknown)
“Northampton has once again opened up their cheque book to attract the star names that they hope will lead them to a first ever English title.” So started last year’s preview. Well fair play to them it worked.
Northampton became the 8th side to earn the right to call themselves English Champions when local boy Alex Waller burrowed over in the last minute of extra time in a pulsating final. Saracens may well quibble several interventions from the TMO but now the dust has settled and its Northampton that will forever be engraved as 2014 Premiership winners.
After last summer’s mega moves this has been a quieter affair, two squad players brought in and two squad players in Van Velze and Diggin leave, the others barely featured. With Alex Corbiseiro allegedly fit and well he may break his current Premiership records of starts in a season, which is currently 6. Lions hero he might be, durable he certainly isn’t.
In previous years Northampton have been remarkably consistent, before last year finishing 4th three years in a row, with the exact same number of points too; I see nothing in their summer moves to change that. The Champions tag may be a heavy burden for them to bear but the manner of victory has to instil a huge amount of belief; just like before they will be consistent but at this new higher level.
Last year Tigers finished 3rd with a record points tally and I feel that one of Tigers, Saints and Sarries is bound to repeat that feat; the top of the table looks so tight and congested that 75 points might not be enough this year.
Northampton are vulnerable to a nagging injury to Stephen Myler, one that would keep him out but not for long enough to sign an injury dispensation case, that is the only way I can see them falling below 3rd.
Prediction: A very close 3rd (Look, you want impartial analysis you’ve come to the wrong place!)