Mallinder optimistic as Saints get set for Champions Cup opener

Jim Mallinder is excited about the start of the Champions Cup (picture: Sharon Lucey)
Jim Mallinder is excited about the start of the Champions Cup (picture: Sharon Lucey)

Jim Mallinder says Saints would love to win the Champions Cup this season.

But the director of rugby is under no illusions as to how tough it will be for his team to progress from Pool 2.

Saints will be up against both of last year's finalists in the opening two weeks, with Sunday's home game against champions Saracens followed by a trip to runners-up Clermont Auvergne six days later.

Mallinder insists his men won't be daunted by those matches and he is full of belief ahead of the big battles that lie ahead.

"We’re really excited about playing in the Champions Cup," Mallinder said.

"We had to qualify the hard way, winning a semi-final and final against Stade Français at the end of last season.

"It meant our season went on but it was certainly worthwhile and now we’re really looking forward.

"We’ve got a challenging group, but we’re looking forward to the challenge and competition."

Saints were thrashed 55-24 by Saracens at Twickenham on the opening day of the Aviva Premiership season.

But they have gone on to win four of their past five matches.

And Mallinder said: "We were well beaten in the league, but it’s a change and we’re playing at home.

"We know that Saracens are European champions - they’re a formidable side.

"It’s going to be tough, we will be the underdogs going into that game, but it’s something we’re actually looking forward to.

"We won the Premiership a few years ago, we got to the final in Europe a few years ago, and now what we’d love to do is win the Champions Cup.

"We know how difficult it will be, the first job is to get through our difficult pool, and that starts with a home game against Saracens."