Mallinder warns Saints not to underestimate Bristol

Director of rugby Jim Mallinder today warned the Northampton Saints players and supporters that Bristol should not be underestimated ahead of tomorrow’s European Challenge Cup Round 3 match at Franklin’s Gardens.

Although Saints come into the game at the top of Pool 2, they have only garnered three league points from their last three Guinness Premiership matches. Mallinder is therefore looking for an improved performance from his players and is keen that the team should use the Challenge Cup to further its development as a unit.

“The Challenge Cup gives us a change of focus,” Mallinder said. “The next two weeks give us an opportunity to get our game in shape, get our players performing well and get ourselves into a good frame of mind. We want to get some momentum back into our season while also looking to continue the good start to our Challenge Cup campaign.”

Bristol head coach Richard Hill has been very public with his comments that his sole focus is on the Guinness Premiership. But Mallinder says that this rotation policy means whoever plays for Bristol will have had plenty of first team experience this season.

“Richard Hill has rotated his squad a lot this season,” he commented. “This has given a lot of players experience in the Premiership and in Europe, and they will be comfortable in the Bristol first team.

“We also cannot forget that Bristol beat us the last time we played them. They performed well, scored tries and defended well. But that’s gone now. Tomorrow is all about us and getting our performance up to scratch.

“We want to win every game during our season. The Premiership has to be the main priority but no matter what team we pick our mentality is to win and we want success.”

Mallinder commented about how the atmosphere inside Franklin’s Gardens aids the team.

“The fans have been outstanding all season. Against Bath they got behind the team, which really lifted the players. Everyone in the squad really enjoys that.”

Northampton Saints team

15 Bruce Reihana (capt), 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Chris Mayor, 12 James Downey, 11 Paul Diggin, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Lee Dickson,1 Soane Tonga’uiha, 2 Dylan Hartley, 3 Euan Murray, 4 Ignacio Fernandez Lobbe, 5 Christian Day, 6 Mark Easter ,7 Scott Gray. 8 Roger Wilson

Replacements: 16 Paul Shields, 17 Barry Stewart, 18 Alex Rae, 19 Mark Hopley, 20 Ben Foden, 21 Carlos Spencer, 22 Jon Clarke.

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