Northampton boss Jim Mallinder believes his side's pre-season preparations played a big part in their under-performing 2015/16 campaign.
The Saints, who won the Premiership title as recently as 2014, failed to make the top four for the first time since 2009.
Although Northampton came from behind to claim a 15-14 victory over Bath at the weekend, it left them in fifth spot in the standings as Leicester Tigers beat Worcester Warriors to secure fourth place.
And Mallinder identified their pre-season as a reason for them playing catch-up throughout the season and ultimately missing out on the play-offs.
“You always aim to get in that top four but it’s not easy and if you look back we would do things differently,” Mallinder told the Northampton Chronicle and Echo.
“It was a long pre-season, we went into those first games a little bit undercooked in terms of how much rugby we’d played.
“It’s fine details, but we arranged to play Worcester in pre-season at the Gardens, the fixtures came out and we opted not to play our first team in that friendly here.
“We should have played our first team.
“Our second team beat their first team but we went down there and lost in the league a week later.
“It meant from there that we were struggling.
“We lost three of our first four games, we lost away to teams towards the bottom and it’s taken a lot of effort during the Six Nations period to try to make that back up.”