Saints boss Jim Mallinder is expecting another tight Aviva Premiership title tussle this season.
Mallinder’s men went to the wire to claim their first Premiership crown in May, seeing off Saracens in the final play of extra-time at Twickenham.
They also left it late to beat Leicester Tigers in the semi-final at Franklin’s Gardens, with Tom Wood’s try securing a memorable 21-20 success.
And Mallinder is predicting another enthralling title race in the forthcoming campaign, which begins with Saints’ game against Gloucester at the Gardens next Friday.
“It’s nice being the reigning champions but I don’t think things really change,” said Mallinder.
“I think everyone knows that when you’re playing Northampton it is like playing Leicester or Saracens - you are going to have a difficult game.
“There are a lot of good sides.
“The top four sides are strong but there are also some unknown quantities coming up as well and we have got one of those in the first game in Gloucester.
“It shows what a tight competition it is, really, and it could have gone either way.
“We did well to get through the semis at home, which was right at the death.
“To score that against Leicester, down to 14 men as well which made it even more exciting and then the Saracens game to go into extra time and win after 100 minutes is incredible.
“It shows how close the teams are and I think it will be very, very similar this year.”
Mallinder arrived at Saints back in 2007 and steered them to promotion from England’s second tier in an unbeaten first season.
He has since gone on to win the LV= Cup, the Challenge Cup - twice - and the Premiership, and he has enjoyed the progress the club has made under his stewardship.
“It (the Premiership title) is always something that you strive for,” Mallinder said.
“We were in the first division when I first came in so it seemed quite a long way off but we have steadily progressed.
“We got through to the Premiership final the season before last and a Heineken Cup final a few of seasons ago (in 2011) so we have been making really good progress.
“To win the Premiership - it doesn’t happen many times and it is certainly the first time it has happened in my career as a coach - and of course we got the double.
“It was a special season, we really enjoyed it, we have had a good summer and now it is full-on and ready for the season.”