Stephen Myler is predicting the closest ever Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign and believes his Northampton Saints side will be right in the mix after a frustrating season last year.
The Saints came seventh, their lowest finish in nine years, but they signed off on a high by clinching a European Champions Cup spot in a thrilling victory against Stade Francais in the play-offs.
That provided a real surge of momentum heading into the summer and the club has been busy – signing the likes of Australian centre Rob Horne, England international Piers Francis and Bristol Rugby lock Mitch Eadie.
And fly-half Myler, who missed the tail end of last season through injury, insists they are ready for battle.
“You are all fighting for four (league) spots and realistically you can argue for eight teams to be in the four, which is why there are so many close games and why it is so hard to put a run of form together,” he said.
2017/18 team photo…
— Northampton Saints (@SaintsRugby) August 15, 2017
“There are people losing games and anyone can beat anyone on any given day. It speaks volumes for the strength of the league, and that is why it means so much when you win.
“Everyone’s squad changes every year with people coming and going, but on the back of what was a frustrating season for us last year, we finished very strongly and got that Champions Cup spot.
“So it left a good taste in our mouths, and we want to be more consistent this year but it is all about learning those lessons and puting the physical graft in in this pre-season window.
“And then in week one we need to be ready.”
The Saints are preparing for a mouth-watering opening-day fixture against reigning European champions Saracens as part of the London Double Header at Twickenham.
After narrowly losing several games last season, it will be the first chance for the Saints to show they have made strides this summer and have the ability to crack the top four.
And Myler believes the 2013-14 Aviva Premiership Rugby champions are not far away from becoming a major force again.
“It was a frustrating year, we were not a million miles away but we managed to throw away matches and be on the end of a two-point swing here or there,” he added.
Before the London Double Header comes…
— Premiership Rugby (@premrugby) August 15, 2017
“But that is the nature of the competition and there are so many teams capable of rising to the fore so we have to work out how we are going to be on the right side of things.
“So that is the challenge for us, to improve things that are in our control that we may have let ourselves down with and which ensured we finished down the table.
“But the way the season ended, the atmosphere at Franklin’s Gardens was just incredible.
“It was frustrating not being able to play in it being injured but it was a performance worthy of giving to the fans and an occasion we want to play in.
“We feel their love in reciprocation so hopefully there will be more to come this year.”