Saints’ style persuaded Kahn to snub other clubs

KEY SIGNING - Kahn Fotuali'i is one of the most highly-rated scrum-halves in world rugby
KEY SIGNING - Kahn Fotuali'i is one of the most highly-rated scrum-halves in world rugby

Kahn Fotuali’i says Saints’ style of play was a key reason for his decision to snub other clubs in favour of a move to Franklin’s Gardens.

The highly-rated scrum-half started pre-season training at Franklin’s Gardens last week, following his switch from Welsh outfit Ospreys.

His signing has captured the imagination of Saints fans, who are relishing the prospect of seeing the Samoan star don green, black and gold.

Fotuali’i has emerged as one of the most-feared No.9s in world rugby, with his displays in the Rabo Direct PRO12 and Heineken Cup standing out.

He was hot property in the transfer market, but it was Saints who pounced to secure his signature.

And he will now take his place in a Northampton backline full of stellar names, including Wales and British & Irish Lions wing George North and England star Ben Foden.

Such ammunition should ensure Saints set the Premiership alight this season, and Fotuali’i admits the chance to be part of that attacking game played a key role in his decision to make the move.

“I got to look around a couple of clubs and I liked the setup they have here,” said the 31-year-old.

“Being here for the first week just backed up why I decided to come here. The brand of rugby that they play was important as well.”

Saints’ offensive threat should also be increased by the arrival of former Clermont Auvergne attack coach Alex King, who is rated highly in European rugby circles.

And Northampton fans will now be hoping the new cast list can help their club win a first major trophy since 2000.

Jim Mallinder’s men reached the Premiership final last season and the Heineken Cup showpiece in 2011, but came away empty-handed on both occasions.

Now, though, they are expected to go one step further and Fotuali’i is looking forward to helping his new club claim glory in the toughest of environments.

“I thought I’d try out the Premiership and see what it’s all about,” he said. “It definitely looks a lot better than what I’ve previously played in, that and also the Heineken Cup.

“There’s definitely the chance to progress to quarter-finals, semis and moving on even further.”

Fotuali’i whetted the appetite of Saints supporters with an eye-catching cameo for the Barbarians against the Lions in Hong Kong.

He came off the bench to score a superb try, leading to plenty of praise from pundits and leaving Northampton fans pondering what might be at the Gardens this season.

“It was an awesome experience,” said Fotuali’i. “Being invited to play for the Barbarians is a great honour, especially getting out there with some great players from around the world.

“The heat in Honk Kong was high so I didn’t play for long, but it was a great experience to play against the Lions.”

Fotuali’i has struck up a close friendship with new Saints team-mate Samu Manoa, with the pair currently residing at the American’s house.

Manoa, who lived with Soane Tonga’uiha when he first arrived in England in 2011, has been showing his new lodger the sights of Northampton and helped him settle in.

“He’s a good boy,” said Fotuali’i. “He’s taken me under his wing. He’s shown me where to go, where not to go.

“We’ve been to some places for food, come back, chilled out because pre-season’s been tough so all we do is chill out on the couch and relax.

“I haven’t ventured out too much. I only got here last week. The weather’s been really nice, but I’m not expecting it to hold up for too long.

“It’s been lovely. The people that I’ve met – the players, management, ladies in the office and people around the streets – all seem quite friendly.

“Northampton’s quite a small town and it’s something I like. You can get on with your business and it’s been cool.

“It’s a great experience and I’m looking forward to starting the season.”