Years in Top Tier: 21
Last Year: 4th in Prem (65 points), Group Stage Heineken Cup & Anglo-Welsh Cup
Europe: Heineken Cup
Director of Rugby: Jim Mallinder
In: George North (Llanelli), Alex Corbiseiro (London Irish), Khan Fotuali’i (Ospreys), Salesi Ma’afu (Western Force), Glenn Dickson (Otago), Rob Verbakel (Otago), Gareth Denman (Rotherham)
Out: Paul Doran-Jones (Harlequins), Brian Mujati (Racing Metro), Soane Tongahuia (Racing Metro), Mark Sorenson (Bristol), Ryan Lamb (Leicester), Tom May (London Welsh), Scott Armstrong (Moseley), Rhys Oakley (Plymouth Albion-Player-Coach), Martin Roberts (Bath), Tom Hicks (Gloucester), Alex Woodford (Moseley)
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. Chief amongst them is Welsh winger and British Lion George North. North is still only 21 and such is the Welsh system he has almost played as many times for Wales (31) as Llanelli (45). The Saints will expect a bit more from their star man that’s for sure.
Also joining Northampton is another Lion in Alex Corbiseiro. Again his club record is hardly stellar; he has never started more than 6 Premiership games in a season. Last year he only managed 2 starts for Irish.
Another arriver is the Ospreys’ super Samoan Scrum Half Khan Fotuali’i, Khan can play in both half back positions so it is not quite clear if the plan is for him to oust Lee Dickson or Stephen Myler. My bet would be Dickson as Myler is actually quietly quite good.
A fourth singing is Salesi Ma’afu, the Australian test prop that played for the Tigers’ A team on trial in 2007 but didn’t make the grade. Ma’afu and Corbiseiro have been brought in to replace two Saints legends that have both departed to Racing Metro in Paris. Tongahu’ia and Mujati have been virtually ever present since Northampton’s promotion in 2008 and are the first major part of that team to be replaced. It will be interesting to see how that goes.
In the back line as well as the powerful North last year saw Luther Burrell come to the fore with his abrasive style, along with strongman centre George Pisi Northampton won’t be short of impetus in the backs.
Northampton has finished 4th for three consecutive seasons and I see little to break that trend.