Jim Mallinder was a hugely influential figure for the Northampton Saints, he is the most successful coach in the club’s history winning 4 trophies in 10 seasons. Before his appointment the Saints had finished rock bottom in the 06-07 Premiership season and were relegated to Division one. Next season the Saints brought in a brand new coaching team with Mallinder leading the way, his impact was instant and the Saints achieved promotion back to the Premiership immediately winning all 30 of their matches in Division one.
Northampton finished 8th on their return to the Premiership and the Saints would go to establish themselves as a force in English and European rugby with Mallinder at the helm.
Northampton lifted 2 European Challenge cups, 1 Anglo Welsh cup, their first ever Premiership title and the Saints reached the 2011 Heineken Cup final in the space of 4 years. This was golden period for the Saints and Mallinder was the man behind this success. The club consistently featured in the play offs of the Premiership finishing in the top 4 for 6 consecutive seasons.
Under Mallinder Northampton were an aggressive and physical side built on a willingness to graft, the Saints were very-well structured and disciplined. The Saints were a daunting team to face with very few able to compete with them.
After a lengthy period of success concluding with the club becoming Premiership champions, Northampton have struggled to replicate their previous triumphs and gradually slipped down the Premiership table in subsequent seasons.
Jim Mallinder’s final season at Northampton proved to be disaster, the Saints lost five out of their six Champions cup matches and limped to a 9th place finish in the Premiership. Mallinder was sacked halfway through the season with a run of nine defeats in a row sealing his fate. Jim Mallinder failed to adapt his style of rugby and the team looked clueless on the field, perhaps Mallinder over stayed his welcome and the Saints suffered because of it.
A month after Mallinder’s dismissal Chris Boyd was announced as his successor taking charge of the Saints before the 2018/19 Gallagher Premiership season. This will be Boyd’s first job in Europe having spent the entirety of his career coaching in the Southern Hemisphere. He was assistant coach with the Sharks and Wellington earlier in his career and acted as defence coach for Tonga during their campaign in 2011 Rugby World cup. He coached the New Zealand u20s side before taking charge of the Hurricanes, his reign at the Hurricanes lasted for 3 years and Boyd guided the franchise to their first Super Rugby title.
Boyd’s Hurricanes played fast and entertaining rugby with plenty of ambition. The Canes played on the front foot and scored plenty of tries. They also had the benefit of having world-class players at their disposal with Beauden Barrett, Dane Cones, Tj Perenara, Julien Savea, Victor Vito and many more wearing the yellow jersey. The Hurricanes were a model of consistency under Boyd reaching two Super Rugby Finals in three seasons.
Boyd will not have same luxuries at Northampton and his first season will be a huge work in progress. He will be faced with the challenge of improving the current squad of players and adapting them to his style of rugby. Dylan Hartley, Courtney Lawes, Teimana Harrison, Tom Wood, Luther Burrell and the majority of the squad will be unfamiliar with playing open attacking rugby so it will be a massive task for Boyd to integrate his philosophies.
Another challenge facing Boyd will be bedding in the Saints newest signings. The club have brought in 11 new players with Ben Franks, Dan Bigger, Taqele Naiyaravoro and James Haskell the most notable additions. Dan Bigger will be a worthy replacement for Stephen Myler, the Welshman is solid kicking out of hand and reliable off the tee. Bigger is more than capable of playing attacking rugby and I think he will do a fine job running Northampton’s offense.
James Haskell will be a reliable ball carrier for the Saints, his aggressive play style with benefit the team in both attack and defence. Haskell will also provide experience having played 77 times for England and over 200 times for the Wasps. Haskell is a big personality and he will lead from the front.
Taqele Naiyaravoro was a prolific try scorer in Super rugby with the Waratahs touching down 29 tries in 47 appearances. Naiyaravovo’s speed and physicality is very reminiscent of Alesana Tuilagi but the Australian international is also blessed with exceptional offloading skills and soft hands often associated with Fijian players. Naiyaravovo is 6ft 5ins and weighes over 19 stone so he will add plenty of muscle to Northampton’s attack.
Ben Franks was signed to help prop up Northampton’s creaky scrum, last season Kieran Brookes and Campese Ma’afu failed to impress and both players have since departed the club. This season Franks will partner Paul Hill and Jamal Ford Robinson both products of the clubs academy, the Saints will be looking for a perfect balance of youth and experience in the front row and the former All Black will be a worthy addition.
Chris Boyd will bring a completely different style of rugby to the table compared to his predecessor however I think he will be successful at Saints. Boyd is a good head coach and once Northampton gel they will be a dangerous opponent for anyone in the Premiership. This season will be a transition period for the Saints and it will be rough at the start, but I expect the team to mould into Boyd’s vision quickly. I think Northampton Saints will be aiming to finish in the top 6 of the Premiership this year and could go all the way to the final in the European Challenge cup.
In the long-term it will be fascinating to see if Chris Boyd can return the club to the pinnacle of English rugby and reestablish Northampton Saints as a contender in Europe, only time will tell.
I would like to credit the Premiership rugby, All Blacks and TheSaintsTv YouTube channels with the videos provided in this blog.