Northampton captain Dylan Hartley believes the Aviva Premiership will have an exciting new arrival when Sam Burgess joins Bath in October.
The former Bradford Bulls man has spent the last four years at Australian NRL side South Sydney Rabbitohs, where he played alongside his brothers Luke, Tom and George.
He agreed to join Bath in February, following the likes of Sonny Bill Williams, Jason Robinson and Israel Folau to have switched codes in recent times.
His arrival will certainly have domestic implications next month, as well as potential international ones, and Hartley is excited to welcome such a high-quality athlete into the game.
“He’s an exceptional athlete. The transition will be hard, but I’m sure being the footballer and pro he is, he will adapt just fine,” Hartley told GiveMeSport ahead of the big kick-off.
But before Burgess arrives, the hooker expects another tough start to the season, as the Franklins Gardens outfit attempt to retain their title.
The England international enjoyed success at Twickenham in May, as his Saints side beat Saracens 24-20 in extra time in the Grand Final.
This was just a year after Hartley and co suffered a crushing defeat against Leicester Tigers at the same stage the year before. And, the forward expects the same big names to be in the mix once again.
“I think the usual suspects from recent seasons will be leading the charge,” he added.
“Tigers, Sarries and Quins will all be strong again.”
The aforementioned defeat to the Tigers was a particularly bitter pill for Hartley to swallow, as he saw red in the Twickenham showpiece. After watching his side lose to the Tigers, he was then banned for the Lions tour.
Those setbacks only served to make last season's final an even sweeter experience, and the relief of lifting the trophy is one he'd certainly like to repeat.
“All the heartache and disappointments over the years made last season’s final even more special,” added the Saints skipper.
“We’ve had to work so long and hard for the title and to finally come out on the right side, there was definitely relief.”
Last term, Northampton finished second in the table, nine points behind Saracens, while Harlequins only just scraped through to the play-offs by beating Bath on the final day of the regular season.
With the Saints kicking off the new season by hosting Gloucester, Hartley believes it will not just be the 'Big Four' challenging for the play-off places, and that a look down last season's table only serves to show how strong the division is.
He concluded: “The likes of Exeter, Bath, Gloucester and Wasps will also be strong. Basically everyone!”
“This league is so difficult because on their day, anyone can beat anyone.”
Northampton kick-off their Premiership campaign against the Cherry and Whites tonight (Friday).
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