Mallinder happy despite Clermont loss

Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder says that Saturday’s match against Clermont Auvergne was encouraging as a first pre-season encounter.

Although Clermont Auvergne won the match 14-5, for large portions the contest was even between the Top 14 finalists and the newly-promoted Saints.

Indeed Bruce Reihana’s 33rd-minute try opened the scoring, although nine points from Brock James and a Gonzalo Canale try saw the French outfit home.

Nevertheless Mallinder was happy with his players’ efforts.

“It was a pleasing start to get a game under our belts and to give everybody some game time,” he said. “Everybody enjoyed getting a game. We’d trained hard this week and to back that up at the end of the week is encouraging.

“For our pre-season we know we’ve got to test ourselves and it’s pointless playing easy games. France is one of the hardest places to come, especially playing one of their top teams with a French referee.”

It was the Saints’ first outing under the Experimental Law Variations, which the Saints boss found “interesting”.

“They certainly speed the game up,” he commented.

“The players found that and even though some of them only played a half they came off knowing they’d been in a game. It was very quick and the contact area was very physical. I think we adapted quite well. We learned some lessons from what happened during the game.”

Mallinder gave 29 players the opportunity to make their mark during the match, something he says is vital as the squad builds towards the Guinness Premiership opener on September 7th.

“What we want is competition for places across the board and we need that in every single position,” he said. “Hopefully we can get that, hopefully we can keep relatively injury free and that will take us forward.”

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