Fixtures - Top Bar

Tom Wood relishing the chance to face Europe’s best as Northampton Saints start their Champions Cup campaign

Northampton Saints skipper Tom Wood has challenged his players to find a new level of performance if the Saints are going to be successful in this season’s European Rugby Champions Cup.

Jim Mallinder’s men start their European campaign with a home game against Montpellier on Saturday, while they also have Leinster and Castres in a formidable looking pool.

Inconsistency has dogged Northampton’s Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign so far and Wood has called for an increased effort in Europe.

England flanker Wood believes the Champions Cup is as close to playing a Test match as you can get without plying your trade on the international stage.

And with Montpellier the visitors to Franklin’s Gardens first up, Wood knows Northampton must click if they’re to progress through a tricky looking pool.

“It’s a great opportunity to test your performance against the best in Europe,” said Wood.

“We always have great occasions in Europe, there always seems to be an extra bit of atmosphere, a little bit of extra buzz about it and it’s a change up from the Aviva Premiership and the week-to-week grind.

“It’s a fresh start for us and sometimes perhaps you’re not going so well in the Aviva Premiership and European rugby is a chance to springboard your season and get into it that way.

“You just want to be testing yourself against the best opponents possible and it’s perhaps as close as you can get to international rugby without actually playing it, so it’s a good opportunity to put your hand up for international honours too.

“There are extra levels of physicality. There’s loads of things to adapt to – the refereeing is slightly different, the interpretation of the laws, the breakdown in particular, it’s certainly different.

“When you have to adapt to those things and play on the edge, trying to find where that edge is all the time, then you improve as a player that way.”

All of Europe’s heavy hitters will be involved in this year’s Champions Cup but Wood insists the aim at Franklin’s Gardens is still to win the competition.

That statement might seem a little farfetched considering Northampton are yet to find top gear domestically, but Wood is refusing to change his lofty expectations.

“Our expectation is to go out and win it,” he added. “Our only ever expectation is go out full on and commit wholeheartedly, we don’t target any given competition, we don’t prioritise anything.

“We just prepare from week to week and put the best team we can out on the field and give it our best shot.

“We recognise that we don’t have a God-given right to win it, there are some damn good teams out there, but we want to be competing, we want to qualify from our group and be in the knockout stages, certainly.

“We love our trips away in Europe; we love the big occasions at the Gardens as well.

“We’ve had some brutal matches against the likes of Castres in the past – we seem to draw them every year.

“Leinster as well – we got a pasting off them at home but then managed to turn it around the following week and beat them at their place.

“There’s a little bit of history building there already and a few ‘what not to dos’ on opening night against Leinster so we’ll enjoy all of that, it’s just another game of rugby for us though.”

European Professional Club Rugby (EPCR) is the organiser of the European Rugby Champions Cup, the European Rugby Challenge Cup and the Challenge Cup Qualifying Competition. Follow all the excitement of another thrilling season of European action at www.epcrugby.com.

Latest News

Aviva Premiership Rugby European wrap: Saracens and Gloucester Rugby celebrate Cup finals

Saracens and Gloucester Rugby are both celebrating places in this season’s European Rugby finals after the Aviva Premiership Rugby sides…

Match Reaction: La Rochelle 14 Gloucester Rugby 16

Gloucester Rugby director of rugby David Humphreys hailed his side’s ‘unbelievable effort’ as they produced a stirring defensive display to…

Match Reaction: Munster 10 Saracens 26

Mark McCall hailed Saracens’ amazing defence after they withstood a first-half assault against Munster and emerged victorious to book a…

Match Report: La Rochelle 14 Gloucester Rugby 16

Billy Burns scored all of Gloucester Rugby’s points and the Cherry & Whites produced an impressive defensive display to down…

Match Report: Munster 10 Saracens 26

Mako Vunipola and Chris Wyles scored vital tries as Saracens booked their place in the European Champions Cup final with…

Saracens ready for titanic Munster challenge

Saracens director of rugby Mark McCall is expecting little sign of weakness from Munster when the two sides clash in…

Sell-out crowds confirmed for Champions Cup semi-finals

The semi-finals of the European Rugby Champions Cup will be played in front of sell-out crowds in Dublin and Lyon…

Sell-out crowds confirmed for Champions Cup semi-finals

England name squad for World Rugby U20 Championship

England have named their 28-man squad for the World Rugby U20 Championship taking place in Georgia (31 May – 18…

Saracens include Lions picks for Munster showdown

Saracens have named all six of their recently-selected British & Irish Lions for their European Rugby Champions Cup semi-final clash…

Dave Attwood returns for Bath Rugby’s European semi-final

Dave Attwood will make his comeback from injury as Bath Rugby face Stade Francais in the European Rugby Challenge Cup…

Willi Heinz and Greig Laidlaw return for Gloucester Rugby’s European semi-final

Gloucester Rugby welcome back scrum-halves Willi Heinz and Greig Laidlaw to the matchday squad as they make five changes to…

Archie White re-signs as Josh McNulty joins Harlequins

Harlequins is excited to announce today (Friday 21st April) that second year Academy Member Archie White has re-signed, while Gloucester…

Archie White

Saracens trio react to England call-ups – Nathan Earle, Nick Isiekwe & Alex Lozowski reaction

Three of Saracens brightest talents could make their international debut this summer, with Nathan Earle joining fellow teammates Alex Lozowski…

Saracens trio react to England call-ups - Nathan Earle, Nick Isiekwe & Alex Lozowski reaction

Jamie George: In-form Owen Farrell can fire Saracens to Aviva Premiership Rugby final once again

Jamie George has every confidence that Owen Farrell can inspire Saracens to go all the way to another Aviva Premiership…

Eddie Jones announces England squad for Argentina tour

Eddie Jones has announced a 31-man squad for England’s two-Test tour to Argentina in June. Dylan Hartley will captain a…

Dylan Hartley

Social media reacts to Premiership Rugby’s 19 Lions

The rise of social media meant it was a Lions squad announcement unlike any other yesterday as players, clubs and…

Delight for young Cranbrook stars as Land Rover Cup win secures Twickenham trip

Just a stone’s throw from England Rugby HQ, Cranbrook U12s sealed an unforgettable trip to Twickenham next month by triumphing…

Broad Plain youngsters set for Twickenham prize after Land Rover Cup triumph

George Keen and his Broad Plain U11s were left overjoyed thanks to Bristol Rugby as they earned a spot for…

Four Sharks To Tour Argentina With England

Four Sale Sharks players have been named in the England Squad for the two test tour of Argentina in June.…

Four Sharks To Tour Argentina With England