London Irish boss Brian Smith looks to have conceded defeat in his battle to keep England international Alex Corbisiero at the club.
The prop has been linked with a move to Saints as they look to find a replacement for outgoing loosehead Soane Tonga’uiha.
Tonga’uiha and Northampton team-mate Brian Mujati are set to move to French Top 14 side Racing Metro this summer.
And Corbisiero could be the man to fill one of those voids after Irish director of rugby Smith admitted he and centre Jonathan Joseph, who has been linked with Bath, are set to move on.
“From the moment I set foot back in the club, I made it clear to those two boys that I wanted them to stay,” Smith told the Daily Mail. “But I’ve got to be honest, I don’t think we’re going to keep everyone at the club.
“I would like to, but the fact is that over the past few seasons, 10 or 12 big-name players have left the club. There are probably still a couple more to go.”
Premiership players are allowed to talk to other top flight England teams from January 1, but Smith believes the machinations have been going on way before that.
He added: “It is disappointing, but that is just a fact of life.
“There are other clubs with bigger cheque-books, there are other clubs who are very pro-active in tapping-up players, and I’ve absolutely no doubt that a number of our lads have been worked on since very early in the season.
“We have made very, very robust offers to those two guys. They have known from day one that I’ve wanted them to stay.
“I’ve peppered their agents with calls, but to be fair neither of them have led me up the garden path, they have made it clear that they are keen to play the field in January.”