Mallinder wants more big events for Saints
NORTHAMPTON SAINTS director of rugby Jim Mallinder has insisted that he is ready to board the roller-coaster that led all the way to the Premiership grand final last term.
The Saints, who start their league campaign with a home game against Exeter Chiefs next Saturday, marched to their first showpiece match in May but were eventually downed 37-17 by Leicester Tigers at Twickenham.
If they are to get there again, they will be looking to get a quick start, just as they did last season by winning their first five games.
A mid-season slump saw them removed from both the Anglo-Welsh Cup and Heineken Cup and slip to sixth in the league, but they recovered to storm into the play-offs and stun Saracens 27-13 in the semi-finals.
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It was a campaign that will live long in the memory for Saints fans but Mallinder wants to create more history. "Seasons are always roller-coasters and there are always highs and lows," he said.
"We had a cracking start to the season and we went through a bit of a lull mid-season, and then we came through it at the end and made it through to our first grand final. It was a tremendous experience and it left us wanting more and motivated us to see if we can go one step further.
"There will be times this season when things don't go exactly as you want. That's when you have to stick together and keep working hard and keep doing the things you know work and hopefully you'll come through.
"That happened last season and hopefully it will happen this season. I think the expectation at Northampton is the same as the top few teams that are always there.
"The crowd come and they attend in really good numbers and they want to see a winning team. So the expectation is always there. For us the challenge is to get the potential of the new signings turned into excellent new signings."
Expectations at Franklin's Gardens will be raised by the summer recruits, most notably British and Irish Lion George North. The Welsh wing will be the star attraction, but Mallinder, whose side beat Leinster 21-13 in Dublin in their final warm-up match last Friday, said the full squad will need to step up to the plate.
"It's trying to get as strong a squad as you possibly can," he added. "You need a big squad and you need your top players, but we'll know we'll be without those players for quite long periods so we need to know that, when those players are away, the squad is strong enough to step in."