Chris Ashton might be now be a friend not a foe but Saracens back row Will Fraser believes Northampton Saints still pack plenty of firepower ahead of their clash on Saturday.
Ashton makes his first return to Franklin’s Gardens since his summer switch to Sarries and finds his former club top of the Aviva Premiership, thanks to five wins from their opening six matches.
The rugby league convert might have moved on but Ken Pisi has joined brother George in the back line while Kiwi James Wilkinson and Luther Burrell have also bolstered Jim Mallinder’s attacking options.
And Fraser, 22, who has featured in all six of Sarries’ Premiership matches this season, insists his side must be on their guard to continue their run of four straight victories in all competitions, following impressive Heineken Cup wins over Edinburgh and Racing Metro.
“The Saints are a brilliant team and they’ve had a great start to their season, they’ve shown they’re a force to be reckoned with this season so we’re taking nothing for granted,” said Fraser.
“They have a lot of great individual players at their disposal and they’ve shown they’re a tough outfit to beat so it will be an incredibly tough game for us, especially being at Franklin’s Gardens.
“We know we are going to have to be at our absolute best to beat them but confidence is high for us at the moment.
“We’re on a run and we’ve had two big wins in Europe which set us in good stead, whenever you get a little run of form together confidence is going to be sky-high and this is no exception.
“Over the last few games we’ve shown we can be creative and we can score tries and long may that continue as we get further into the season – we certainly go into each match thinking we can win and this weekend will be no exception.”
Saints welcome back South African summer signing Gerrit-Jan van Velze to Premiership action following his four-week ban for a tip tackle in only his second appearance for his new club against Exeter.
And with a sizeable Springbok contingent at Sarries, he’s relishing the chance of locking horns with his compatriots.
He said: “The rivalry with Saracens and Northampton is huge and then on a personal level I know quite a few of the Sarries boys – Schalk Brits, Jacques Burger, although he won't be playing, and John Smit is someone I always looked up to as a youngster.
“But it's not about me, it's about the team playing well and producing a performance together.”
Referee: Andrew Small (77th Premiership game)
Assistant Referees: Paul Burton, Alan Hughes.