Saints set for 'massive challenge' at Twickenham

Jim Mallinder is looking forward to the season opener against Saracens (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)
Jim Mallinder is looking forward to the season opener against Saracens (picture: Kirsty Edmonds)

Jim Mallinder says Saints fully understand the 'massive challenge' they will face against Saracens at Twickenham on Saturday.

And the director of rugby insists his men must be positive if they are to beat the reigning European champions.

Saints and Saracens are familiar foes and they will meet in both the Aviva Premiership and Champions Cup this season.

This weekend's encounter, which is part of the London Double Header, is the league curtain raiser and Mallinder feels it is a good way for his side to start.

"It's a real good test away from home, but we know playing at Twickenham is a neutral ground and hopefully we'll get a lot of Northampton fans coming down and filling the ground to get behind the team," Mallinder said.

"We're excited.

"We understand the challenges of playing Saracens, they are a great team and they're going to be very tough to beat.

"We'll go out there and we've got to be positive and play some rugby against them.

"They're a big, strong team and they like nothing better than kicking the ball to the corner and driving.

"Once they get ahead they're a difficult team to break down.

"It's a massive challenge and we're looking forward to it."

Saints won all four of their matches in pre-season, beating the Dragons, Nottingham, Glasgow Warriors and Ulster.

And Mallinder, who saw his team finish their friendly campaign with a 55-15 win against Ulster last Friday, said: "It's been a good pre-season. We've all enjoyed it.

"It's been a little bit shorter than the past few years, but that's worked in our favour because it's been intense.

"We've had a few good little games where we've tested ourselves, a few different combinations, tested our fitness and we're now ready for the season to start.

"We do know and we discussed it afterwards that it is pre-season and we don't quite know the strength of the Ulster team we faced on Friday night and where they are.

"All you can do is do what we did, which was put in a good performance.

"It was a good test in the first half and in the second half we got a real grip of the game and I'm really pleased with the lads who came on because they upped the tempo when Ulster were

tiring.

"It was good to score those tries."

Saints have not won their opening game of a Premiership season since 2014.

And they are eager to set things straight by beating Saracens this Saturday.

"When you play at home you definitely need to get that win and last year it was so disappointing with us losing that first game to Bath - it put us behind," Mallinder said.

"Playing away this year means there is slightly less pressure on you, but we want to get off to a flying start and if we can do that we can look forward to two home games (against Leicester and Bath) after that."