Saints desperate for top-two finish in Premiership this season, says fly-half Smith

Fin Smith has his sights set on a top-two finish (photo by Graham Chadwick/Getty Images)Fin Smith has his sights set on a top-two finish (photo by Graham Chadwick/Getty Images)
Fin Smith has his sights set on a top-two finish (photo by Graham Chadwick/Getty Images)
Fin Smith says Saints are 'desperate' for a top-two finish in the Gallagher Premiership this season.

The black, green and gold have finished fourth in each of the past two campaigns, sending them on the road in the play-offs.

And on both occasions they were beaten by the eventual champions, losing at Leicester Tigers in 2022 and Saracens earlier this year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Now they are ready to start the 2023/24 adventure with a trip to last season's runners-up, Sale Sharks.

And Saints have lofty aims ahead of the big kick-off.

"We're desperate for a top-two finish," fly-half Smith said. "We want to have a home semi-final at the Gardens.

"It's tough to win semi-finals away from home so we're massively targeting that home semi-final.

"To get that, our away form has got to be much better so hopefully that starts this weekend.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"We'd love to be in the mixer again in the play-offs and that's what we're expecting from ourselves."

With only 10 teams in the Premiership this season, each game takes on added significance.

And Saints know that they must improve their away form, having won just three times on the road in the league last time round.

"We're always confident at home and those away games are going to be even more important this season," Smith said.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"If we go away and lose six or seven away games like we did last season then we've got no shot at it.

"The teams that perform best away from home this season will be the ones that end up in the play-off spots."

Saints have placed a big emphasis on becoming more resolute during pre-season, appointing Lee Radford as their new defence coach in place of Ian Vass.

And now they are hoping to show improvement in one of the toughest environments in the Premiership.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"We've had what feels like two months' worth of pre-season and it's all been building up to the big one: the first game in the league," Smith said.

"We've had this date circled on the calendar for a little while and it's a great first challenge to go up to Sale.

"We've been speaking a lot about our defence and our physicality, and there's no better team to play first round to judge ourselves against.

"We're champing at the bit, ready to go and looking forward to it."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Sale are known for their impressive physicality and the fact that they are so tough to beat at the AJ Bell Stadium.

And Smith said: "Sale have always been a big, physical team who love getting in a scrap and taking it to teams.

"They added a real different dimension to their game last year with a really astute, tactical kicking game and their attacking shape looks a lot better.

"You can definitely see the impact George Ford has had on them. Obviously he's not there at the moment, but the stuff he's implemented they've still got in their game, so we'll be expecting a big, physical pack but also a nice, neat kicking game and it's up to us to diffuse that."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Smith was in the saddle for Saints for their semi-final at Saracens back in May, but the home side proved too strong, securing a 38-15 success and a place at Twickenham.

Defeat was tough to take, but at the age of just 21, Smith has already learned so much.

When asked what he took away from matches like the one at Saracens, he said: "There's a big difference in how you've got to see those big games.

"It's less looking for the superstar moments and trying to have all of these breaks like we will do on some weekends because when you have big games like the one we had at Saracens in the semi-final, there's going to be a lot less space so it's more about turning the defence around and more game management stuff.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"It's all good learning for me and to have played a semi-final at the age of 20 is going to stand me in good stead."

Smith and his fellow talented Saints backs are given plenty of leadership responsibility.

And he said: "I love that part of it - it's so good for me to have a big of that weight on my shoulders to do that leadership stuff, and it's something I really enjoy doing.

"It's nice that although I'm young, I feel I'm a fairly respected voice within the group."