Jim Mallinder bids to resurrect Saints

Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder has challenged his squad to repeat their famous victory over Leinster from 2013 when they face them this weekend.
Jim Mallinder bids to resurrect Saints

Northampton travel to Dublin tomorrow for their Pool 4 Champions Cup clash on the back of a humiliating defeat at home last week.

Mallinder’s side were thumped 37-10 by Leinster at Franklin’s Garden last Friday in a match which also included the dismissal of England captain Dylan Hartley, who has subsequently been banned for six weeks, for striking Sean O’Brien.

It means Northampton head to group leaders Leinster on the back of a heavy defeat, however it is not unfamiliar territory for them.

Three years ago, Mallinder’s side suffered at 7-40 loss at home to the Irish province before pulling off a shock 18-9 victory in Dublin just seven days later. And, as they prepare themselves for their trip to the Aviva Stadium, Mallinder has told his players to keep that victory in mind.

“You look back on games like that to show everything is possible,” said Mallinder.

“We have not been going well, the last few games we have not been playing quite as well as we want.

“But we are still a good side and if you look around that changing room, we have got lots of good players and we just need to pull it together.

“There is a feeling that we can do it and it starts this weekend. We want to go out there, we know Leinster are good and it is going to be tough playing in the Aviva Stadium. But we need to build on our performance and then keep that going for the next three weeks because then we have three massive league games.”

Northampton’s loss to Leinster last week was their third in a row and there has been unrest among supporters about the club’s poor form.

The Saints are ninth in the Aviva Premiership, while they are rock bottom of their Champions Cup pool, with one win in three games.

Such has been the level of discontent that Northampton’s chairman, Tony Hewitt, has now written an open letter to supporters urging them to remain united.

“The last decade has been the Saints’ most successful period in the last 50 years. We have won multiple trophies, including our first Aviva Premiership title, and reached more finals,” said Hewitt. “We have become used to being successful, which in turn means that we are unaccustomed to the situation in which we currently find ourselves. There have been many comments on social media and online forums which accuse the club’s management of being ‘out of touch’. Support can never be unconditional, but it is essential that everyone remembers that we are all part of the same club and have the same ambitions, and we can achieve them together.”

Meanwhile, as Northampton prepare to travel to Dublin, there have been reports that JJ Hanrahan has agreed to join Munster next summer.

The fly-half’s current deal with the Saints expires June and a return to Thomond Park has been mooted.

However when asked if there was any truth to such speculation, Mallinder said: “There’s nothing confirmed there. We are still talking with him and other members of our squad with regards to what we are going to do.”

With Saints currently outside the top six in the Aviva Premiership, which guarantees Champions Cup qualification, Mallinder was pressed whether that may affect Hanrahan’s decision and said: “I am not sure how long it’ll take [for him to make a decision].”

Champions Cup Pool 4 - Leinster v Northampton

Tomorrow: Aviva Stadium, 7.45pm

Referee: Romain Poite (Fra)

TV: BT Sport 2

Betting: Leinster 1/14, Northampton 15/2, Draw 25/1

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