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

Harlequins Ladies coach savours upcoming Women’s Super Rugby season

Women’s sport is booming according to former Richmond prop and Scotland captain Karen Findlay, who is now relishing the prospect…

Aviva Tackling Numbers programme celebrated at Corporate Engagement Awards

Premiership Rugby and its Aviva Tackling Numbers programme enjoyed not one but two moments in the spotlight at the Corporate…

Corporate Engagement Awards

Lions ready for battle on eve of All Blacks Test

After months of waiting and weeks of build-up, The British & Irish Lions are ready to face the toughest challenge…

Saracens and London Irish to kick off the season at Twickenham

SARACENS and London Irish will help launch the 2017-18 Premiership Rugby season after being chosen as the home sides for…

Ex-England star Susie Appleby excited to lead Gloucester-Hartpury in inaugural Women’s Super Rugby campaign

Former England international Susie Appleby believes it’s an exciting time for women’s rugby as she issues a rallying cry to…

Wasps confirm 2017/18 pre-season schedule

Wasps have today confirmed their 2017/18 pre-season schedule, which will see them face Connacht Rugby and Ulster Rugby, as well…

Wasps celebrate

Quartet sign Academy contracts with Bath Rugby

Bath Rugby is delighted to confirm that Rhys Davies, Wil Partington, Miles Reid, and Kieran Verden have all signed long-term…

Todd Blackadder

Clare Daniels hoping to inspire the next generation of female rugby referees

The first female official in Aviva Premiership Rugby history, Clare Daniels, has urged girls and women to take up officiating…

Luke McLean enthused by London Irish move

Luke McLean is looking to reignite his international career under Italy Head Coach Conor O’Shea following his summer move to…

All Black Francis Saili joins Harlequins

Harlequins is excited to confirm today (Wednesday 21st June) that All Black Francis Saili has joined the Club. Commenting on…

Francis Saili

Bath Rugby sign Phillips from Bristol Rugby

Bath Rugby is pleased to announce the signing of James Phillips, who has joined the Club from Bristol Rugby until…

JamesPhillips1

Nowell gets two tries as Lions see off Chiefs in Hamilton

Exeter Chiefs’ Jack Nowell returned to his sparkling best with two tries for the British & Irish Lions in their…

Nalaga a big coup for Irish says international teammate Tikoirotuma

Explosive wing Napolioni Nalaga can be an big hit in every sense of the word during next season's Aviva Premiership…

Masi and Everard return to Wasps alongside new Academy Manager Jonathan Pendlebury

Wasps are pleased to announce a new Academy structure ahead of the 2017/18 season. The new set-up sees former Yorkshire…

The new Wasps academy coaches

Sale Sharks announce signing of Australia international James O’Connor

Sale Sharks have announced the latest in a wave of world class signings, as they confirm Australian International James O’Connor…

Sale Sharks announce signing of Australia international James O’Connor

Lions prepared for final warm-up before All Blacks Test

After a crucial victory against the Maori All Blacks, the British & Irish Lions are just a single match away…

Wasps sign Paul Doran-Jones and David Langley

Wasps today confirm the signing of props Paul Doran-Jones and David Langley, while loosehead Tom Bristow is confirmed as leaving…

Paul Doran-Jones

Venter integral to Du Plessis opting to join London Irish

Petrus Du Plessis says Brendan Venter was a key factor in his decision to move to London Irish this summer.…

Fight and spirit shone through despite defeat, says England U20 coach Vass

Head coach Ian Vass hailed his England U20 side’s fight and spirit after they were beaten in the World Rugby…