Wood: Northampton are marked men this season
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
Communication error please reload the page.
New Zealand have named seven Super Rugby-contracted players in their Under-20 squad for a key warm-up tournament ahead of the Junior World Championship
Louis van Gaal is adamant he is no dictator - as Manchester United captain Wayne Rooney described his manager as a nice guy
New Zealand officials want greater clarity about the breakdown, for both fans and players, as part of World Rugby's post-World Cup review of the Laws of the Game
Nathan Hughes will appear before a Rugby Football Union disciplinary panel on Tuesday following the incident which saw the Wasps forward sent off and Northampton's George North taken off on a stretcher last Friday
A resurgent Venus Williams defeated Caroline Wozniacki 6-3 7-6(1) on Monday to reach the Miami Open quarter-finals
Maurice Hamilton looks through the reaction of the British press to Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari returning to winning ways at the Malaysian Grand Prix
Concussion, relegation and the mother of all surprises - it's the Monday Maul.
After a 10-year break in the fixture, England and Italy have faced each other three times in as many seasons, with one win each and a draw
Queensland are worth watching again, even if victory over the Lions would have papered over cracks, because Quade Cooper is back in the No.10 jersey, Greg Growden writes
In a exciting return from injury, Quade Cooper thrilled fans to become Player of the Round, while a new star now leads the medal tally
Six months after being victim of a machete attack that left him fearing for his life, Kell Brook dished out a vicious attack of his own in his a first world title defence
Kell Brook is not waiting for Amir Khan to make up his mind about fighting him and hopes to face either Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez or American Brandon Rios this summer
Patrick Kluivert has revealed he did not follow Louis van Gaal to Manchester United as his No.2 last summer as he was holding out for a managerial role instead
Luis Suarez received a rapturous reception as he made his first return to Anfield since joining Barcelona, playing the second half of a charity game between sides captained by Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher
Danny Welbeck believes signing for Arsenal has helped him to improve his international form for England
Rory McIlroy walked off at the Honda Classic. What next for the Northern Irishman?
Join Steve Bunce and Barry Jones each week for the latest news, views and debate from the boxing world.
Who has driven in the most GPs before taking pole position?
Unbeaten heavyweight Dillian Whyte, 28, (14-0, 11 KOs) tells ESPN where his rivalry with Anthony Joshua stems from and outlines the plan for his career this year after returning from a doping ban in November
Miroslav Klose scored goals in the World Cup final tournaments of 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014. Has anyone else scored World Cup goals 12 years apart?