ALEX WALLER believes the Saints forwards will pack a bigger punch than ever next season.
The 22-year-old prop is part of a Northampton team which, under the guidance of coach Dorian West, prides itself on strength in the set piece.
But Waller feels other sides have started to up their game in those departments to combat the Saints.
The Harlequins pack were particularly impressive as they beat Jim Mallinder’s men 25-23 in the Premiership play-off semi-final at The Stoop earlier this month.
Saints were unable to rely on the likes of Soane Tonga’uiha and Brian Mujati to see them through to the grand final, with both replaced before the end of the game.
Quins, meanwhile, kept their props on for the entire game, a move which paid dividends as loosehead Joe Marler rumbled over for what proved to be a crucial late try.
Waller was on the pitch when that happened, completing a run which saw him play in all 35 games last season, and he says Saints will step it up a notch this summer to ensure their pack are the best in the Premiership next time round.
“We all pride ourselves on our performances every week but other clubs have seen that and have started to step us as well,” the Kettering-born prop said.
“It’s not quite the easy armchair ride we used to have a couple of years ago but that’s only going to make us improve more.
“We’ll go away and work on that this pre-season and come into the season flying hopefully and be back to where we were.”
Saints have found a balance between youth and experience in recent seasons and Waller believes Mallinder has got the recipe for success in the pack.
He said: “There’s myself, (Ben) Nutley and (Mike) Haywood and a couple of the other young boys coming through there’s some good youth.
“We’ve also you’ve got the likes of Soane, Dylan and Mooj and Brett and a couple of other boys who are a bit older and have played a bit more rugby.
“They’ve just found the right balance between a bit of youth and experienced old heads and I think that’s working for us.”