Jim Mallinder knows Saints must get off to a slick start when they travel to face Racing Metro in the first round of European Rugby Champions Cup games.
Northampton head to the Stade Yves du Manoir on October 18 (kick-off 6.15pm) and will be desperate to avoid a repeat of what happened in round one of last season’s Heineken Cup.
On that occasion, Saints failed to turn possession into points as they fell to a 19-13 defeat at Racing’s Top 14 rivals Castres.
That left Mallinder’s men with a mountain to climb as Leinster beat Ospreys in the first round of pool matches and the pressure was cranked up.
Saints were unable to progress, slipping into the Amlin Challenge Cup as one of the best runners-up, and they eventually went on to win that competition.
But they will expect to progress in the Champions Cup this year, with Ospreys and Treviso also in Pool 5, and Mallinder recognises the importance of a fast start.
“Starting our European Rugby Champions Cup campaign in France is both exciting and challenging,” said the Saints director of rugby.
“Racing Metro is well known as one of the most ambitious clubs in the competition and their squad is packed full of internationals and British & Irish Lions.
“It is an important start for us, and hopefully as many Saints supporters as possible will be there to get behind the team in our first competitive match in Paris.
“The game the following week against the Ospreys will be just as important.
“Winning your home games is crucial if you want to progress into the quarter finals, and we know from our two games against them last season that the Ospreys will be tough opponents.”
Saints’ European Rugby Champions Cup fixtures:
Saturday, October 18: Racing Metro 92 (a) (6.15pm on Sky Sports)
Saturday, October 25: Ospreys (h) (5.15pm on Sky Sports)
December 5/6/7: Treviso (a)
December 12/13/14: Treviso (h)
January 16/17/18: Ospreys (a)
January 23/24/25: Racing Metro (h)