Age, injury and fresh faces are knocking on Ben Foden’s door.
And the Saints full-back knows he can’t afford to let any of them creep in this season.
The 30-year-old starts the campaign in good shape, having impressed in pre-season wins against Saracens and Wasps.
He is now firmly over the knee problem sustained at Ospreys in January, which ended his season and sidelined him for several months.
And with James Wilson out until December, Foden has a chance to stamp his authority on the Saints 15 shirt before his main rival returns.
But Ahsee Tuala will provide real competition and that means there is no room for the kind of complacency Foden admits set in at one point last season.
“We need to have competition everywhere,” Foden said. “In the past I probably took it for granted.
“Even last year when we played Leicester here and they picked Jimmy Wilson to start ahead of me I was very disappointed and I went in in a bit of a strop to see the coaches.
“They told me straight: “Jimmy’s playing better rugby than you at the moment, so take it on the chin, learn from it and if you get the chance to come off the bench, play well and try to win the shirt back”.
“I managed to do that, it gave me a kick up the bum and showed me nothing’s taken for granted in this game - you’ve got to perform week, in week out.
“That was probably the turning point when I really started to put some form together and put some pressure on the England guys to select me.
“I’ll be doing that again and Ace (Tuala) will be doing that as well.
“He’s been in cracking form since he’s played for Saints so the competition’s good.”
As Foden points out, he was just gathering some momentum when he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in that Champions Cup win at the Liberty Stadium.
And the injury, which inspired some dark days, has sharpened his focus ahead of the new season, which begins withan Aviva Premiership game at Worcester Warriors on Friday night.
“When I first got injured, I wasn’t in a good place,” Foden said.
“I spoke to Lanny (Stuart Lancaster), who gave me the first bit of hope and light at the end of the tunnel, saying it would be possible to get back for the World Cup.
“I put all my energy and focus into that and I’m glad I got to go in for a week to see the boys, see what they’d been doing and put my name in the frame.
“Even though that didn’t happen, there’s a lot of things around the corner.
“I’m lucky enough to have done a World Cup already, in 2011, which probably isn’t as big as this one, being in England.
“But I’ve experienced it and I’ve had a great career up to now.
“I still want to do great things here at the club. I still want to win a Heineken Cup here.
“My England career is still there to aim at and there’s a Lions tour in two years, which is the last feather I want in my cap in terms of the international stage.
“It’s all to play for and although I like to joke and say I’m getting old, hopefully that experience will put me in good stead for future ambitions I have.”
If the injury has taught Foden anything it is how to maintain himself.
He laughs when suggestion is made of Ryan Giggs’ much-publicised use of yoga to prolong the Welsh footballer’s career, but he knows he too must learn how to best manage his body.
“During my recovery, I went to Philadelphia to see a guy called Bill Knowles, who set out what I was going to do and how I would get back as quickly as possible,” Foden explained.
“It was great going out there to see him, one of the physios came out with us as well and learned the ropes.
“It was great to get a change of scenery and see someone who had a different take on things.
“It really progressed me, I’ve learned a bit about my body and I feel strong.
“I’m getting a bit older now so I needed to know about maintenance to make sure I can get out on the field as much as possible.
“I’m coming into my 11th year as a Premiership player and I never thought I’d be saying it but I feel my age as a 30-year-old so I’ve got to make sure I look after myself.
“If I want to play until I’m 35, 36 I need to make sure I’m doing the right things.”