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Mallinder keen for Northampton to regain that winning feeling

Northampton Saints director of rugby Jim Mallinder admits re-establishing a winning mentality in Aviva Premiership Rugby will be key, as they bid for their second title in three years.

The Saints finished at the top of the Aviva Premiership Rugby table last term, but were edged out 29-24 by Saracens in the semi-final at Franklin’s Gardens, to finish the season empty-handed.

But Mallinder insists his side have put that result firmly at the back of their minds, as the Saints look to make the most of an extended summer break.

And after winning 16 of their 22 league fixtures last year, the 49-year-old is eager to keep that momentum going and boost their chances of reaching the top four.

“It’s been different this pre-season because it’s been so long and the players have enjoyed having that little bit of extra time, but I’m certainly now ready to play,” he said.

“We’ve seen in training that we’re a bit edgy, ready for that contact. We’ve got a pre-season game this weekend but really we’re looking forward to the start of the season.

“Ultimately we didn’t succeed in terms of winning the Premiership again, backing up what we’d done the year before.

“Saracens are a team with some top international players like us, and on the day it’s who performs the best. We weren’t able to put our best team out, we had a number of injuries, and when you play Saracens you want the best players available.

“But we take a lot of pleasure and joy out of coming top of the table and that’s an achievement in itself. We’re all about winning. The expectation from the outside is high, but most importantly that comes from within too.

“That's what we’re about, so we don’t worry about semi-finals or finals at this stage, it’s all about playing well, consistently winning games, and that’s what we’ve got to concentrate on this year.”

With nine new faces also arriving at Franklin’s Gardens, Mallinder is hoping the squad can mould together when those on international duty return.

And with the likes of fly-half JJ Hanrahan arriving from Munster, the former England Saxons coach is relishing the competition for places right through the squad.

He said: “It will be interesting to see how everyone gels. We’ve had a good pre-season, but it won’t really be until the World Cup players come back to see how we gel when the squad is all as one.

“I think what we’re looking for in selection in our squad is to have strength and quality in every single position.

“We see JJ as someone who’s really going to push Steven Myler for that No.10 jersey. He’s started well in pre-season and hopefully he can carry that through.”

The 2015-16 Aviva Premiership Rugby Season kicks off on 16 October. To see all of the fixtures click here.

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