Hooker Charlie Clare believes Northampton Saints must hit the ground running if they are to fully reach their potential in the Anglo-Welsh Cup – starting with Sunday’s trip to Newcastle Falcons.
The Midlanders have had a far from perfect start to the Aviva Premiership Rugby campaign, sitting with more defeats than victories in their bid to return to the top four after last season’s fifth-place finish.
But for Clare, the Anglo-Welsh Cup provides an opportunity to start afresh.
It’s a competition Saints have enjoyed recent success in, winning the tournament in 2010 and going on to once again reach the final four years later before missing out to first-time winners Exeter Chiefs.
But with a tricky trip to Kingston Park the weekend’s test, Clare knows it will be far from straightforward facing off against a side just one point and one place below them in the Aviva Premiership Rugby table.
And with Saints sitting on a disappointing away record that has seen them win just one game away from Franklin’s Gardens this term, the forward knows this is an opportunity to gain much-needed momentum.
“It all starts with this weekend, if we can go up there and win at Newcastle then the rest can take care of itself,” he said.
“A win early on will allow us to start looking at where we want to end up in the competition.
“That gives momentum through the team, and if we can start well then we’ll have a happy camp and hopefully that can feed through into other competitions.
“Our away form this season has not been fantastic, but if we take each game as it comes, so long as we stay positive then I’m sure we’ll be okay.
“Teams are going away from home and picking up more and more results so it’s massively important that we’re not just reliant on our home form.”
The Anglo-Welsh Cup has often proved a valuable breeding ground for young talent to emerge – and Clare is hoping that this season is no different.
The front-rower has featured in a Saints shirt five times since signing from Bedford Blues this summer, all as a replacement during domestic and European action.
And the 24-year-old is hoping the Anglo-Welsh cup can help catch the eye of those at Franklin’s Gardens, looking to force his way into the hooker’s jersey on a more regular basis when Dylan Hartley leaves for England duty in the coming weeks.
“We’ve kept a lot of the focus on ourselves, it’s a young group of players hungry for that opportunity,” he continued.
“It’s about going to Newcastle and sticking together as a unit to give ourselves the best possible chance of winning.
“There are a lot of lads out there who are wanting to bring something to the team and if that can give us momentum for the season then it’s something we want to capitalise on.”
The Anglo-Welsh Cup kicks off this weekend and for all the fixtures and details of the Final at the Twickenham Stoop on 19 March see www.new-heroes.com
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