Team: Northampton Saints
Coach: Jim Mallinder
Home ground: Franklins Gardens
Scott Armstrong, Calum Clark (both Leeds), Stuart Commins (Western Province), Matt Cornwell (Exeter), Adam Eustace (Gloucester), Joe Ford (Leeds), Tom Mercey (Saracens), Ryan Powell (Worcester), Mark Sorenson (Newcastle), Greig Tonks (Nottingham), Tom Wood (Worcester)
Neil Best (Worcester), Santiago Bonorino (retired), John Brake (released), James Cannon (Wasps), Alan Dickens (retired), Barry Everitt (retired), Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe (TBC), Joe Gray (Harlequins), Scott Gray (retired), Mark Hopley (retired), Juandre Kruger (Blue Bulls), Chris Mayor, Darren Morris (both released), Jon Vickers (Exeter)
An extremely strong home record in the Premiership saw Northampton have one of their best seasons in recent times last year. With Shane Geraghty, Chris Ashton, Ben Foden and Bruce Reihana all around again this season it should be another entertaining one for the Saints, particularly at Franklins Gardens if they can keep on pleasing the home crowd.
A few first team regulars have been lost, with Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe and Neil Best amongst the most disappointing departures. Their signings have been solid if not spectacular, so it will be interesting to see whether those departures have an impact on the squad.
One to watch:
Courtney Lawes was on the ascendancy during the first half of last season, but then lost his way slightly – perhaps because he was moved around the back five of the scrum rather than through any fault of his own. However, this could be his breakthrough season, taking the Premiership and England by storm just in time for the World Cup.
They’ll be in the reckoning once again, and the top 4 is very close to call, but I’m going for Saints in 4th.