Saints boss Boyd: We have to be better at home
Chris Boyd has stressed that Saints must improve their home form if they are to have any chance of challenging for honours this season.
The black, green and gold have had a torrid time at Franklin's Gardens in recent years, with behind-closed-doors rugby really not serving them well.
They only won one home league game in 2020 and have won just three of eight games in all competitions at the Gardens in 2021.
But with no limits on capacity now, as Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted, Saints can finally feel the full roar of their home fans.
And ahead of this afternoon's Gallagher Premiership season opener against Gloucester at the Gardens (kick-off 3pm), Boyd believes that could be crucial.
"The harsh reality is that we didn't do well at home last year at all," said boss Boyd ahead of the start of his fourth season at Saints.
"We had a coaching meeting recently and spoke about the thing that most irritated us was the games that we were either closely ahead of behind on in the last 20 minutes and we went on to lose.
"Most of those games happened at home so was the lack of spectators a part of that? I suspect it probably was but you wouldn't want to use it as an excuse.
"Our record at home in the past couple of years hasn't been good enough and it's certainly something we want to improve.
"It's a tough league and it's a very even league and the fact there's no relegation this season means it will be an even tougher league this season.
"The difference between fourth and eighth could be a couple of bonus points.
"There's hardly a situation now where you'd be really comfortable to go and put your house on Team A 100 per cent beating Team B.
"It's a great place for us to be and it's exciting for spectators because if one team has a bad day and another has a good day, anyone can come out on the wrong side of it."
By winning the Premiership after finishing fourth last season, Harlequins showed what can be achieved.
The side from the Twickenham Stoop played a stylish brand of rugby that eventually proved too hot for title favourites Exeter Chiefs and Bristol Bears to handle.
And when asked whether Saints can take belief from what Quins achieved last season, Boyd said: "Every team has got its own DNA, its own style and its own way it wants to play.
"You'll try to work out what the best approach is for your team is to win the maximum number of games.
"The interpretation of the breakdown, the amount of space, the attitude towards what the set piece is there for and used for - there are so many imponderables.
"I would hope there are more people that realise there is more than one way to play.
"It's really good for the Premiership that there are teams like Harlequins and Bristol who play the way they do.
"We try to play the way we do and then there's a different flavour to Newcastle, to Wasps, to Exeter, and it will be interesting to see if there's a different flavour to the new Saracens model.
"What tends to happen is the teams that are the most successful, people look to why they're successful and try to copy them.
"If you're going to play a game of territory, power and brutality - Exeter have dominated that style of game.
"We got a bit of a pasting from Harlequins halfway through the year and someone asked me what the difference was. I said it was 1,000 caps.
"They were very stable during the year, they didn't have to make many changes during the year and they had guys in key positions who had tremendous form.
"They had Marcus Smith, Danny Care, Mike Brown, Alex Dombrandt, Andre Esterhuizen, Joe Marler - those guys have got a lot of caps between them.
"They're a very good side and it will be interesting to see if they can replicate it."
With Saracens stepping up from the Championship, the Premiership has been expanded to 13 teams.
And Boyd believes this season will be more competitive than ever.
"It gets harder every year for me," he said.
"I don't think there's many teams you're going to say are definitely going to be top six and there's not many you'd say are definitely in the bottom six.
"I'm sure the usual contenders will be in and around.
"Saracens have got a pretty strong first-choice line-up again.
"One of the things I noticed when I first arrived was the depth Saracens had, and their 16 to 23 jerseys were almost as impressive as their one to 15.
"That depth is not quite there now so it will be interesting to see how they go.
"Exeter have made six finals in six years so you'd be foolish to discard them.
"And Bristol have got some great players in their group so it will be interesting.
"When you've got a smallish number of high profile players and you put good value journeymen and a number of locals around them, if you get great value from your marquee players and they play really well for you, you're obviously going to be in a better position.
"But if those key players don't play because they're injured, it can make a significant difference.
"You can't sit down and guarantee four or five points against any team."