Waller feels Saints’ familiarity will breed success
Alex Waller believes Saints’ togetherness could pay off when they face a revamped Gloucester at Franklin’s Gardens tonight (7.45pm).
While the Cherry and Whites have been chopping and changing during a turbulent summer, Northampton have stuck with the squad that claimed the double last season.
Only Joel Hodgson and Jon Fisher have arrived as Saints focused on retention rather than revolution, opting to spend the salary cap on keeping their best players.
Meanwhile, Gloucester have brought in stars such as Richard Hibbard, John Afoa and Greig Laidlaw in a bid to improve on last season’s ninth-placed finish.
And Waller is hopeful that the strength of his team’s bond will stand them in good stead as they bid to get their title defence off to the slickest possible start.
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“There’s been very few signings coming in,” said the prop. “We’ve had Fish and Joel come in and they’ve integrated fantastically.
“Obviously it helps that the majority of the squad have played together for a year and others for a lot longer.
“It helps in that we’re all connected, we know what other people are going to be doing and when things go wrong that might help us out at bit.
“Whereas with a new team, they (Gloucester) might struggle with that aspect just purely because they haven’t had the minutes together on the pitch, but that takes nothing away from them, they’re still going to be a dangerous side.
“It’s going to be a tough game, one we’re looking to win, but by no means an easy task.”
Lions hooker Hibbard and former All Blacks prop Afoa, in particular, will provide added power to a Gloucester team often accused of having more style than substance.
And Waller, who will start on the bench tonight, with Alex Corbisiero getting the nod at loosehead, recognises the Cherry and Whites will be much improved from their 39-13 hammering at the Gardens in March.
“In previous years, they’ve not been the strongest up front but they’ve made some fantastic signings with John Afoa and Hibbard coming in as well as other lads,” he said.
“They’ve always had a fantastic backline and they’ve bolstered their pack now so they’re going to be a tough first opponent.
“By all accounts, they’ve been working hard in pre-season and they’re looking to be a top four side so by no means are we underestimating them.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but what better place to start than at Franklin’s Gardens on a Friday night.”