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Wood optimistic Europe can help turn Saints form


Tom Wood knows Northampton Saints have had a bad start to the season but insists the European Champions Cup will help them rediscover their best and climb the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.

Jim Mallinder’s side opened the new campaign with a 18-14 home defeat to Bath Rugby before they secured their first win against newly-promoted Bristol Rugby.

But back-to-back defeats against champions Saracens and table toppers Wasps have left the Saints tenth in the table.

Northampton qualified for the European Champions Cup by finishing fifth last season and they face Leinster, Montpellier and Castres in Pool 4 – which starts in two weeks time.

And Wood believes his side will raise their game in order to compete, which will then turn their league form around.

“I think it can be a chance to mentally freshen up and change focus because it is nice to mix things up a little bit, get out of the weekly games in the Premiership and break it up a little bit,” he said.

“Especially as we have not had the greatest start and it gives us something fresh to focus on, a fresh impetus and it is a step up.

“In terms of the atmosphere, scrutiny and the hype that comes with it and also the physicality on the pitch, it is the closest you can get to international rugby with their physicality and it is definitely a step up and we look forward to it.”

Mallinder is not yet concerned by their start to the season and expects his side to start putting more points on the board soon.

They go to last season’s runner-ups Exeter Chiefs on Friday before Harlequins visit Franklin’s Gardens the following week.

And the 50-year-old believes Aviva Premiership clubs are in a good place to conquer Europe and continue Saracens’ success from last season, judging by what he has seen so far this season.

“We have not had a fantastic start to our Aviva Premiership season but I think we have shown over the past few weeks that we can compete with the best teams, like Wasps and Saracens,” he said.

“With a little bit more accuracy and a little bit more luck we can beat everybody.

“I think from what I have seen from the Premiership this year, the English clubs have got a fantastic chance once again and Saracens will be at the forefront but we have seen from some of the performances some really good strong sides who can be competitive.

“We know the French clubs are good but I think the English clubs have really improved and will be there or there abouts.”

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