TOP BAR - Fixtures

Mallinder switches focus for LV= Cup fortnight

Director of rugby Jim Mallinder is eager not to dwell on a disappointing European weekend for Northampton Saints, with three trophies still within their sights.

Northampton were beaten 32-8 by Racing Metro at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday, the French outfit denying their hosts a home quarter-final in the European Rugby Champions Cup.

However, the Saints are still in the competition and now face a trip to Clermont Auvergne in April – with a place in the last four on offer to the winner.

Add to that an LV= Cup campaign, which resumes this weekend, and their Aviva Premiership Rugby title retention bid and Mallinder’s men have a lot to play for.

“We had high hopes,” he told Saints TV. “We wanted to get a win to get a home quarter-final, but it wasn’t to be.

“Racing are a quality side, they put us under pressure in some key areas. They looked after the ball themselves, didn’t over-play, didn’t over-complicate and on the day they deserved to win.

“We’re still in the competition and we are going to battle hard. We have got a bit of time now, in terms of international players going away, and our focus turns very quickly to the LV= Cup, which will take us into the Premiership.

“In a couple of months’ time we have got this quarter-final away in France and we will embrace that when it comes. It’s going to be a massive challenge but we have got a team that enjoys challenges and enjoys playing away.”

Saturday holds a derby clash for Northampton, who travel to Welford Road to take on Leicester Tigers in the LV= Cup.

And Mallinder is hoping to see his charges bounce back in determined fashion and make it three wins from three so far in the competition.

He added: “There are a lot of lads who want to play and want to show what they can do in our squad at the moment. It’s a good opportunity for game time, a good opportunity to get back to winning ways.

“It’s two tough games, in terms of Leicester and Wasps, so it’s not going to be easy but we’re already in a good position. If we can go through and qualify in that tournament, then it will stand us in good stead.”

Tickets for this year's LV= Cup Final on 22 March at Franklin's Gardens are now on sale. Click here to snap one up from just £20 for adults, £10 for juniors to see who will win the first silverware of the season.

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