Exeter Chiefs captain Dean Mumm admits it will be a tough ask against last year’s Aviva Premiership finalist’s Northampton Saints, but would love to get a first away win of the season under their belts on Saturday.
Last season, the Chiefs failed to secure an away league of the season until late November when they defeated London Irish 27-23 before going on to finish the campaign in sixth place, bagging with it a Heineken Cup spot for the second year running.
First up for the Devon side is a visit to Franklin’s Gardens to take on Northampton, who finished just two places above them in the table before falling to Leicester Tigers in the final.
Romana Graham, Don Armand and Greg Bateman, three of the Chief’s summer signings are ruled out through injury as is Luke Arscott, Jack Nowell, James Hanks and Luke Cowan-Dickie.
But Mumm, who replaced Tom Hayes as skipper this year, believes the tough encounter will provide his side with a good marker for the season.
“We’ve got Northampton first up away which is fairly intimidating start against a proven top-four side,” said the Australian international.
“It’s a really big challenge for us. Clearly Northampton love a set-piece game and they do it as well as anyone in the competition.
“It will be a really good indicator of how we’re going. I think if we can get one away from home first up it will be a wonderful start to the season but we’ll have to work pretty hard to get it.
“I think the real challenge for us is to pick up points consistently. We’ve had a good record at home but perhaps the challenge for us is to get a few more away games.”
Chiefs will take heart from the fact they have never been defeated in their three previous round one fixtures in the Premiership,.
However, despite beating their opponents 28-19 in the Anglo-Welsh Cup at Sandy Park in February, Exeter have lost on all four previous visits to Northampton in all competitions.
Saints have also tasted victory in round one for the past six seasons, and have three wins in the last four matches at the home ground.
With a fully fit squad to choose from, including the likes of new signings George North, Kahn Fotuali’I and Alex Corbisiero, captain Dylan Hartley believes his side deserve the tag of title contenders.
“We carried an underdog tag last year that we kind of thrived on which is quite nice,” said Hartley, available following the conclusion of his 11-week ban for his red card picked up in the final. “I think we proved our worth.
“But I don't think we can play on that again this season. With the signings we've had people are going to expect us to perform.
“I think squad wise we're as strong as we've been. We’ve got Kahn Fotuali'i, George North and Alex Corbisiero, They've been some of our real big signings.
“So it's really exciting. The sun's still out, hopefully it's going to hang on all of September for these opening Premiership games.”
(Franklin’s Gardens, 3pm)
Referee: JP Doyle (63rd Premiership game)
Assistant Referees: Roger Baileff & Peter Huckle. TMO: Rowan Kitt.