Premiership final win would have massive effect, says Saints boss Mallinder

FOCUSED - Jim Mallinder (Picture: Linda Dawson)
FOCUSED - Jim Mallinder (Picture: Linda Dawson)

Saints have spent the past two weekends achieving things that they haven’t managed to for some time.

This weekend, though, they will aim to do something they have never previously done: win a Premiership title.

To be fair, they couldn’t be in a much sounder place, with an almost fully-fit squad of players to choose from and a burgeoining sense of belief now in place at Franklin’s Gardens.

The play-off semi-final victory over Leicester was seismic, ending a run of 10 winless games against the pesky Tigers.

And the 30-16 success against Bath in the Amlin Challenge Cup final last Friday halted a run of four successive final defeats.

Now Saints know the biggest task of all lies in wait when they head to Twickenham to face Saracens in the league showpiece this weekend.

And director of rugby Jim Mallinder recognises just how significant a successful trip to English rugby HQ would be for everyone involved with his club.

“This weekend is very important,” said Mallinder. “We are a big club. We’re in a massive rugby area where rugby means so much to not just a few people who like rugby but the whole town.

“The whole town gets behind the rugby, as well as the football and the cricket, but rugby’s a big, big thing here.

“We’ve won a Heineken Cup, which is a big achievement, and if we could win a Premiership it would be huge. The effects would be massive.”

A year ago, it looked 
like Saints would end their wait for a Premiership title.

But, up popped those Tigers again, ruining Northampton’s dreams on a soul-destroying day in the south-west London sun.

This time, though, Saints feel better prepared.

There is not just more belief, there is more talent, too.

“We’ve had the experience of the extra year, with the players who have been around from last year from the Premiership final,” said Mallinder.

“Then you’ve got to add the other players who have joined us since and if you add (Kahn) Fotuali’i, George North and (Alex) Corbisiero to any team, it’s only going to make you better.”

Last year, Saints slayed Saracens on their way to the final, producing a sensational performance to secure a shock 27-13 success at Allianz Park.

But Mallinder feels his team may have peaked too early on that occasion as they proceeded to fall to defeat in the final.

“We went down to Saracens in the semi-final being complete underdogs and won the game,” reflected Mallinder.

“Then we had a week off and turned up for the big final. Maybe we played our big cup final two weeks too soon last year.

“This season, we’ve known all along that we’ve been second in the Premiership and we’re where we wanted to be.

“We’ve fought hard against Leicester to get to the final, so everything’s gone to plan up to now, which is always quite nice.”