Hartley - Saints on the up

Saints ready for Europe having reached knockout stages last year

Last Updated: 06/10/10 6:34pm

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Hartley: Northampton club captain

Hartley: Northampton club captain

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Dylan Hartley believes Northampton's relegation to the second tier of English rugby allowed the club to make a "fresh start".

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"We are definitely on the up. The club, the team, the whole town - the Cobblers (Northampton Town) are on the up. They beat Liverpool the other night!"
Dylan Hartley Quotes of the week

Saints suffered the drop to the old National One at the end of a 2006/07 season that also saw them lose a European semi-final to Wasps.

However, the arrival of Jim Mallinder in the summer of 2007 resulted in a transformation at Franklin's Gardens. They returned to the top flight at the first time of asking and have continued to go from strength-to-strength since.

Club captain Hartley is in no doubt that the foundations for Northampton's current success were laid during their season out of the Premiership.

Good year

"I was there before we went down and the personnel changes that took place," said the 24-year-old. "I'm not saying that the previous people were bad or good, it was just a fresh start. Everything was fresh.

"Big Jim (Mallinder) came in with his new set-up of Dorian West, Paul Grayson and Nick Johnson.

"This year again we have signed four or five more young English lads - talked-about lads who want to come and play for us.

"Getting relegated was a good thing. At the time it was really horrible but it gave us a year to start all over again.

"That was a good year - we had some big six-hour bus journeys and you learn a lot about the squad at times like that. It brought the squad together and made us tighter. Over the last two years we have built on that.

"We have won silverware in each year in the Amlin Challenge Cup and the LV= Cup.

"They're not the Heineken Cup or the Premiership but at least we've been winning something.

"We must keep progressing and right now it's about winning games. Come the business end of the season, we will see where we are.

"We are definitely on the up. The club, the team, the whole town - the Cobblers (Northampton Town) are on the up. They beat Liverpool the other night!

"Northampton is a good place to be in sporting terms now!"

Euro trail

Northampton begin their bid for Heineken Cup glory at the weekend looking for a repeat of their success in the tournament back in 2000.

They were the only English side to reach the knockout stages last season and will hope to do the same again this year, after being drawn in a pool alongside Cardiff Blues, Castres and Edinburgh.

"We have Castres at home and Edinburgh away in the first two weeks," said Hartley. "There are no easy pools. For us to win our home games will be a start, beginning with Castres.

"There's this reputation about French teams not travelling but Castres were sat around the top of the Top 14 for two-thirds of the season.

"You don't sit at the top of the Top 14 without winning your away games.

"So I don't buy into the idea of French teams not travelling well. We'll be ready to go all guns blazing."

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