Aviva Premiership
Wood: Northampton are marked men this season
ESPN Staff
August 21, 2014
Tom Wood said Northampton had to earn the chance of securing a second successive Aviva Premiership title © Getty Images

Tom Wood has warned his Northampton Saints team-mates that defending their Aviva Premiership title will be even more difficult than winning it was last season.

Northampton claimed their first ever Premiership title in the most dramatic of fashions with a try in the last move of extra-time against Saracens at Twickenham in May, and that victory means the Saints will be targeted as the men to beat when the new season kicks off next month.

"There is now a big target on our heads," Wood told the Daily Telegraph. "There has been a lot of recruitment elsewhere, there is a lot of optimism in other clubs and that means it will be a tougher challenge for us.

"We have got no God-given right to be able to do it again. We have got to earn it all over again. We did last year through sheer hard work and if we go out now with a bit of strut and aura, then that will be a good thing."

Last year heralded big-name arrivals such as the Lions duo of George North and Alex Corbisiero, but this summer has been a relatively quiet one in terms of new recruits at Franklin's Gardens. But Northampton, who have announced a profit for the 14th season in a row, are happy to run a tight ship and put their faith in the men who led them to glory last season.

With so many internationals in their ranks, a lack of new signings could leave the Saints short of options when the Test windows arrive this season, but director of rugby Jim Mallinder said he will be happy to call on young players to fill the gaps.

"There is a concern there because we do have one of the smaller squads in the Premiership but we are confident that the youngsters who served us so well last season during those absences will do so again," Mallinder said.

"Other teams will definitely be after us. Of course, there is a question as to whether we can repeat it. We have definitely got the squad to do it and we have got the frame of mind to do so again, also. We will be stretched by international call-ups but we know that we can deal with that.

"There are no easy games in the Premiership and if you are not quite there on top of your game, teams can come and get you. It is important we go out there and play with the belief of champions."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd

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