Mallinder not looking too far ahead
August 27, 2012
Jim Mallinder's Saints suffered a terrible start to last year's Premiership campaign © Getty Images
Northampton boss Jim Mallinder is confident his side are well placed to avoid a repeat of their disastrous start to the last Aviva Premiership campaign.
The Saints suffered four defeats in their opening five games last term and found themselves scrapping at the foot of the table in the shadow of a Rugby World Cup that had stripped them of many of their leading players.
Northampton recovered from their shocking start and would reach the semi-final play-offs where they were beaten by eventual champions Harlequins but Mallinder is taking no chances this term and is firmly focused on emerging from the early season skirmishes with their title challenge firmly intact.
"There are a lot of positives from the 2011/12 season," said Mallinder. "We had a terrible start during the World Cup and we were second bottom at one stage, but we came back and managed to get into the top four.
"Then we went down to Harlequins, missing a number of our senior players, and I thought we played really well and to lose out in the last few minutes was a real bitter blow and very disappointing. But we will take a lot of positives from that and we're encouraged by the start we've made in terms of the work we've done in pre-season and hopefully we can get a better start.
"Ultimately to finish top two would be the aim of everybody, but I don't think we'll get too carried away with looking that far ahead. We'll have a look at September really and that run up to the Heineken Cup and look at our league games and prioritise a few fixtures there, set ourselves a few targets.
"You never really want to make wholesale changes, only when you have to. We're not in that position, so we think that we've strengthened the squad. We've got some big lads upfront, who will hopefully make a difference and we've got a few exciting backs who have joined us as well and they've all shown good signs in pre-season."
The Saints squad has seen some changes with the departure of winger Chris Ashton leaving a significant void but one that has been filled by Samoan international Ken Pisi while Mallinder is hopeful academy graduates may also raise a few eyebrows.
"Ken is a good player, he is very exciting," he added. "He's playing with some exciting players out wide and I'm sure he will really enjoy linking up with Ben Foden and the rest of the lads.
"We see the LV Cup as an important competition because you know your international players are away and it is a chance for the other members of the squad to get some good and competitive rugby.
"I am very pleased with the way the guys are coming through. I think the academy is vital to the strength of a rugby club and they are the lifeblood of the rugby club.
"We have a number who have moved up to the senior squad, like Teimana Harrison, and hopefully we will see more and more of those players playing first team rugby in the next year or two."
© ESPN EMEA Ltd
"The fans could not be happier with the opposition and it adds an exciting element to a game that is shaping up as a thriller." Ben Kay previews the Premiership final showdown
"If there was a cross breed of canine called an Underdogdoodle it would win best in show at Crufts." Mark Durden-Smith looks at the Aviva Premiership Final
With the Lions' tour to Australia fast-approaching, ESPN's Austin Healey and Mark Durden-Smith sat down to share their memories of the 2001 trip Down Under
Ask John answers questions on the Leopards' tour to Italy in 1974, brotherly Test sides, Pat McGrath, England's games against the Barbarians and Jacques Brunel