Alex King believes Saturday’s Heineken Cup showdown against Leinster will be the ideal barometer for Saints.
Backs coach King has helped to mastermind seven successive wins in all competitions, leaving Northampton in a good position at home and abroad.
But they know their toughest test lies in wait this weekend as Irish giants Leinster, who have claimed three of the past five Heineken Cups on offer, head to Franklin’s Gardens.
It’s a game Saints must not lose if they are to stand a chance of progressing to the knock-out stages and King and Co are approaching it with excitement.
“Over the last five years they’ve won three Heineken Cups, an Amlin Cup and they’re a team full of experience and current internationals,” said the former Clermont Auvergne coach.
“I think 14 out of the Ireland 23 who played against the All Blacks were from Leinster.
“We’re under no illusions about the task at hand, but these are the kind of tests you want through the season to see where you are.
“It’s a step up, they’re a quality team full of quality players and they’ve got quality coaches in Matt O’Connor and Jonno Gibbes.
“We’re under no illusions of what’s in store, but we’re excited and looking forward to Saturday.”
Former Leicester coach Matt O’Connor is at the Leinster helm after taking over from Joe Schmidt, who is now in charge of Ireland, during the summer.
And King knows the team which won the Amlin Challenge Cup and the RaboDirect PRO12 last season remains as strong a force as ever, despite the change in management.
“I’m still good mates with Joe Schmidt,” said the former England fly-half. “He was in charge for three years and O’Connor’s taken the baton.
“They’ve got some quality players. (Ian) Madigan at 10 will link well with (Gordon) D’Arcy and (Brian) O’Driscoll in midfield, they’ve got the Kearney brothers, (Zane) Kirchner... it’s a hell of a line-up.
“We know our defence has got to be spot on, we’ve got to be alert at all times and when we get the ball we’ve got to show what we can do.”