Season Preview: Northampton Saints

Last Season

Despite reaching the semi finals, last year’s defending champions looked to have peak at the start of the season. Their season seemed to be torn apart ruthlessly by Clermont when they were hammered 37-5 in the Champions Cup quarter-final. Northampton Saints never fully recovered from that thrashing and although they beat Saracens twice in the Premiership they unfortunately couldn’t in the semi final when it mattered.

Players In
• JJ Hanrahan (Fly-half, Munster)
• Kieran Brookes (Prop, Newcastle Falcons)
• Jamie Gibson (Flanker, Leicester Tigers)
• Michael Paterson (Lock, Sale Sharks)
• Tom Kessell (Scrum half, Cornish Pirates)
• Pat Howard (Centre, Stormers)
• Paul Hill (Prop, Yorkshire Carnegie)
• Sion Bennett (Back Row, Scarlets)
• Victor Matfield (Lock, Bulls)

Since Northampton already have such a strong and settled squad, they have opted for quality over quantity with their signings. The possible half back partnership of Kahn Fotuali’i and JJ Hanrahan combining Fotuali’i’s experience with Hanrahan’s potential and skill set is certainly an exciting one for Saints fans. Jamie Gibson is also a shrewd acquisition. He had been tipped to become that elusive England genuine openside flanker but has somewhat gone under the radar recently. Gibson could reach those heights supported by a strong pack at Northampton. Victor Matfield is a late addition and he should bring a plethora of experience.

Players Out
• Salesi Ma’afu (Prop, Toulon)
• Samu Manoa (Lock, Toulon)
• Phil Dowson (Flanker, Worcester Warriors)
• Dominic Waldouck to (Centre, London Irish)
• Will Hooley (Scrum half, Exeter Chiefs)
• Alex Day (Scrum half, Cornish Pirates)
• Joel Hodgson (Scrum half, Yorkshire Carnegie)
• Tom Ryder (Lock, Yorkshire Carnegie)
• Cam Dolan (Back Row, Cardiff Blues)
• Tom Mercey (Prop, released)
• Josh Skelcey (Wing, released)

The loss of Salesi Ma’afu is lessened somewhat by Kieran Brookes arriving. Nevertheless, Ma’afu had become a firm favourite with the Frankins Gardens faithful and his departing to Toulon, along with Samu Manoa, is a huge blow. Manoa was widely regarded as one of the best forwards in the Premiership and was the first person to be signed on a 4 year contract by Toulon – a grand acknowledgment of his talent.

Hopes and Fears for next season
Another Premiership semi final would probably be the Saints’ goal this year. They will also be hoping to qualify from their Champions Cup pool and to fully establish a place among Europe’s elite. In short though, not reaching the knock out stages of the Aviva Premiership would be an unsuccessful season for Northampton Saints.

Key Player
Although he is no longer their captain, Dylan Hartley is still an integral member and leader for the Saints. He will be hyper motivated this season after missing out on World Cup selection and with his pinpoint throwing will contribute to the continuing success of the Saints’ lineout.

LWOS Prediction
They have recruited well and have a settled look about them. Possible finalists.
“Main Photo”