Tom Wood believes Louis Picamoles’ arrival at Franklin’ Gardens has provided a major boost as Northampton Saints try to learn lessons from last year’s Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign.
French No.8 Picamoles completed a move from Toulouse and after a disappointing fifth-place finish last year, Wood thinks the powerhouse back-row can add a new dimension to Jim Mallinder’s side.
That said, with the likes of George North, Courtney Lawes, Dylan Hartley and Teimana Harrison all pulling on the Saints shirt this season, they are not entirely reliant on the Frenchman’s fresh impetus.
And though Saints have had huge success in recent years – winning the Aviva Premiership in 2014 and finishing the regular season as league-leaders the following year before losing out to eventual Champions Saracens – Wood is looking to the future for a model of success.
“Louis Picamoles has been great, he brings a huge amount of experience to the role, he is an established player, a very confident, natural ballplayer,” he said at last week’s Aviva Premiership Rugby launch at Twickenham.
“I have played against him a few times and I am certainly glad he is on our side now.
“But that said, we don’t build our team around one man and we have a lot of talent within our ranks and a potential that we didn’t really realise last year.
“We didn’t get out of second-gear really and there’s so much more to come from this team. I am hoping that with a really good preseason under our belts, a few guys back from injury and we’ll be able to start with a bang and build from there.
“We don’t want to look backwards at all, that is part of the problem. We had relied upon those successful years as a blueprint and actually the league changes, things move on and other teams come to the fore.”
An early-season loss to Worcester Warriors at Sixways last year put Saints on the back foot, and Wood thinks his men must learn lessons from last year’s tough losses if they are to move on and thrive in the Aviva Premiership.
And win against Todd Blackadder’s Bath Rugby on Franklin’s Gardens is top of his new season wish list.
“Our main focus has been on learning lessons from last year. There is as ever a big emphasis on fitness, both for me as captain and the team as a whole,” Wood explained.
“We have been able to take a lot out of last season because we were disappointed with the outcome.
“Once you got off on the wrong foot it was difficult to take stock and take a step back and sort things out, there was no natural opportunity to reassess where you are at and change direction if necessary.
“Once we were playing catch-up we never really got it together.
“Exeter Chiefs, Saracens and Leicester have been very strong the last few years, have gone up a few gears and we need to find that extra level too – I certainly think we have it within us.
“A win on the first day, especially at Franklin’s Gardens, is a must for us and gives us the springboard we need to build throughout the season."
Start the Aviva Premiership Rugby Season in style with two games from £25 at Twickenham. Harlequins v Bristol Rugby and Saracens v Worcester Warriors in the London Double Header, 3 September. Tickets available from ticketmaster.co.uk