Saints counting down to Premiership start

With a fortnight until the start of the 2008/09 Guinness Premiership season, Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder and captain Bruce Reihana have called on the Northamptonshire public to unite behind the team.

The first Guinness Premiership match is against Worcester Warriors and it is arguably the biggest match in recent club history. The league is the most competitive in the world. Last season a mere 15 points covered the top seven positions and every point is vital.

Mallinder and Reihana believe that the Northampton public can help make the difference when the Warriors, including All Blacks Rico Gear, Sam Tuitupou and Greg Rawlinson as well as Australian World Cup winner Chris Latham, come to town.

“The players, coaches and support staff have all been working extremely hard throughout the summer and everyone is hoping for a full Franklin’s Gardens,” says Mallinder. “Last season the number of people who followed the team home and away was absolutely phenomenal. In the coming months their support will be even more important, especially against the Warriors in the first match of the campaign.

“Worcester sent coaches out to Vichy to watch us in action against Clermont Auvergne. This shows how seriously they are taking us and every little thing will help make the difference, starting with the support of a sell-out crowd.”

“All of the players love seeing full stands and knowing we have the support of the town behind us,” Reihana adds. “The Saints really puts Northampton on the map – it was big news in New Zealand when the club won the Heineken Cup a few years ago. The fans are a big part of that and by supporting us from day one of the season they can help bring some pride to the club and the town.”

The game’s significance has been recognised by Sky Sports, who have chosen it to open their 2008/09 Guinness Premiership coverage and thereby putting Franklin’s Gardens on show to an international audience.

Stuart Barnes, rugby union commentator at Sky Sports said: “The East versus West Midlands televised clash between Northampton Saints and Worcester Warriors sums up why I think this will be the best Guinness Premiership season so far.

” The established traditional team Northampton are on the rise, with the new age Worcester outfit looking to ensure that the old and new power struggle is turned on their head as Chris Latham joins them to add class, grit and character in abundance.”

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