Former Saint Bayfield impressed by ‘balanced squad’ at the Gardens

IMPRESSED - BT Sports pundit Martin Bayfield, who is pictured below in his Saints playing days
IMPRESSED - BT Sports pundit Martin Bayfield, who is pictured below in his Saints playing days

Former Saints lock Martin Bayfield has hailed the job Jim Mallinder and his staff are doing at Franklin’s Gardens.

And he believes there is now a ‘nice balance and determination’ to the Northampton side as they pursue a hat-trick of trophies.

Saints are currently top of the Aviva Premiership and have LV= Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup knockout games to look forward to in the next month.

And Bayfield, who is a regular pundit for BT Sport, can’t help but be impressed by the season his former club are having.

“They’ve been very impressive,” said the ex-England and British & Irish Lions second row forward.

“This season they’ve got a very balanced squad and they’ve got players who can step in when other guys are missing.

“There doesn’t seem to be a huge downturn in form.

“It’s taken a while to bring all these guys together. Obviously they’ve got the international players who are usually impressive, but also the young guys coming through now.

“They’re really doing very well indeed and there seems to be a nice balance and determination about the side.

“Obviously at the helm you’ve got Jim Mallinder and Dorian West, who are doing a cracking job.”

But Bayfield is not sure Saints will have it all their own way in their quest to claim a home semi-final in the Premiership.

With just six games to go, Mallinder’s men look well set to achieve that, sitting 15 points ahead of Bath and Leicester, who are level on points in third and fourth respectively.

But Bayfield said: “Northampton have got quite a tough run-in.

“They’ve got a lot of the guys in the top half of the table to play.

“They will want a home semi-final, and I think that will be quite tough.

“It helps to have a home semi. Saints did a number on Saracens last year, beating them at Allianz Park, but usually home advantage favours the home team.

“Saints have had some history where they’ve been the home team in the semi-final and lost.

“They know the chances are they will be facing Bath or Leicester and either of those sides will be hugely threatening.”