Alex King has warned Saints today’s opponents Castres will be desperate to make their mark on the Heineken Cup this season.
The former Clermont Auvergne coach, who moved to Northampton this summer, believes the reigning Top 14 champions are targeting European success.
And he knows Saints will have to be on top form to stop the likes of Remi Tales and Rory Kockott pulling the strings at the Stade Pierre-Antoine this weekend.
King and Co head to France on the back of a gruelling 19-19 draw at Leicester last weekend, while Castres rested key men in their 34-0 thumping at Brive in a bid to be ready for Europe.
“Bearing in mind the team they put out against Brive and resting a few of their frontline players, it would appear that they are targeting this competition,” said King.
“They’ve got a new coaching team this year, who want to make their mark on the club.
“Obviously the first game up is us at their place and they will want to give a good performance.
“Their frontline players at eight, nine and 10, (Antonie) Claasens, Kockott and Tales are very good and they’ve got a big pack as well.
“It’s a big, big challenge this year because no team yet has gone to Castres and won.”
Saints missed the chance to claim Leicester’s scalp last weekend, letting a 10-point lead slip in the closing stages to endure a Welford Road stalemate.
But King believes his men can take plenty of positives from that game as they head into Heineken Cup action against a Castres side currently sitting 11th in the Top 14.
“It was a cracking game,” he said.
“Two good teams, cracking atmosphere, great rugby public, it’s great.
“It was a game we could have won, a game we could have lost but a draw was probably a fair reflection of the 80 minutes.
“I’m pretty positive, the boys are playing well and we’re looking forward to the weekend.
“We’ll look back at it and we’ll learn from it.
“Whether we’d won or whether we’d lost, you learn from all your games and it’s great preparation for this weekend.
“We’re playing a team with a great pedigree in Castres, the French champions.
“The French league is probably not reflective of where they are and we need to be at the top of our game to get a result.”