Northampton Saints signings impress ex-wing Jon Sleightholme

Northampton have made 10 signings for the new season, as director of rugby Jim Mallinder looks to improve on last term's achievements of a Premiership semi-final and Heineken Cup final in 2010/11.

Former Saints and England winger Jon Sleightholme speaks to BBC Radio Northampton ahead of the new season and assesses the arrivals at Franklin's Gardens.

Vasily Artemyev, 24, wing

Clearly, Jim Mallinder has seen something in Vasily. The Russian players are very fit, physical guys and it will be interesting to see how Vasily adapts to the toughest environment he will have played in.

Physically, he has everything you want from a back three player in the Premiership.

Noah Cato, 23, wing

Noah is a very good acquisition. He is the one guy who has arrived who could replace Bruce Reihana and has impressed me.

Saints stars were the appeal - Cato

Cato has been on the fringes of the England set-up and is good enough and young enough to become a senior international player.

Saracens will be hoping that letting him go will not come back and haunt them.

Paul Doran-Jones, 26, prop forward

Paul is unlucky not to be going to the World Cup but he is exactly what Saints need in the front five. It was well documented that when Soane Tonga'uiha and Brian Mujati were not playing, the front row was weakened.

With Paul, you have got a player with huge potential who can step into their boots, and a bit of competition in the front row is what Jim Mallinder will be hoping for.

Ryan Lamb, 25, fly-half

Saints move was a "no-brainer" - Lamb

When Ryan first came on the scene at Gloucester, he was outstanding and everybody thought he would be the next big thing for England. It has not quite worked out for him but he has the ability and is in the best environment he could be.

[Saints backs coach] Paul Grayson has done a brilliant job with Stephen Myler and he will be hoping to work his magic with Ryan. I think Lamb has more about him at fly-half than [former Saints player] Shane Geraghty .

Tom May, 32, utility back

Tom is one of the best signings the club have made during the off-season, particularly with the guys away at the World Cup. He can play in multiple positions in the back line and that is worth its weight in gold.

He has got bags of experience and maturity, and playing in France has only done him good. He is very good news for Saints; a consummate professional and an ideal man to have set an example to others.

George Pisi, 25, centre

One of the Saints' areas of potential weaknesses is strength in depth in midfield. With Joe Ansbro leaving for London Irish , it was a big loss.

George is someone who could put pressure on James Downey and Jon Clarke when he is back from the World Cup. He is a quick, creative player with good footwork and Northampton have needed that.

Martin Roberts, 25, scrum-half

Martin Roberts factfile

  • Born 06/06/1986
  • Joined Scarlets from Ospreys in March 2008
  • Made 79 appearances for Scarlets in three seasons
  • Made his Wales debut against Canada in 2008 (3 caps in total)

Lee Dickson has been the outstanding player of the last couple of seasons, but he has not had a huge amount of competition for his place.

It will do Lee and Saints no harm at all for him to be pressed for his place by Martin, who could be one of the signings of the season. He's a young guy with a lot of potential, and I would hope they have someone there who is not just a back-up to Lee, but can pressure him for his position.

Sleightholme's overview

When you include locks James Craig and Samu Manoa, and utility back Cesar Sempere, all these guys are fighting for their places with established names in the team. Saints are definitely better and stronger than this time last year.

The biggest challenge is the interruptions you get with international call-ups and Jim Mallinder will want those players coming back and having to scrap for their positions.

What he will not want is the kind of rescue mission they needed after the Six Nations last season, bit it appears he has the right balance this season.

Jon Sleightholme was speaking to BBC Radio Northampton's Jon Wilkinson.