Mallinder says champions tag will make it tough for Saints

Jim Mallinder says Saints' status as Aviva Premiership champions will make life tough in the European Rugby Champions Cup (picture: Linda Dawson)

Jim Mallinder says Saints' status as Aviva Premiership champions will make life tough in the European Rugby Champions Cup (picture: Linda Dawson)

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Jim Mallinder believes Saints’ status as Aviva Premiership champions will make life tougher for them in next season’s European Rugby Champions Cup.

Mallinder’s men discovered their fate on Tuesday afternoon, as they were joined in Pool 5 by Racing Metro, Ospreys and Treviso.

It appears to be a much kinder draw than the one they were handed last year, when Leinster, Castres and Ospreys provided the opposition.

But Mallinder is taking nothing for granted and he believes his team are now there to be shot at following their triumphs in the Premiership and Amlin Challenge Cup last season.

“We haven’t played Racing Metro before, and going to Paris will be an exciting challenge,” Mallinder said.

“Racing is an ambitious club and showed in their recent play-offs win away at Toulouse just how dangerous they can be.

“They have a squad packed with quality players and are strengthening even further over the summer.

“While Racing is a new opponent for us we know what to expect from the Ospreys. We had to work extremely hard for our results against them last season and it will be no different in 2014/15.

“Dan Biggar is a top goal kicker and Alun Wyn Jones is an outstanding captain and any side that has that number of internationals deserves to be respected.

“We haven’t played Treviso for a few years, and it will be good to go back to Italy. But while that will be a good trip for the supporters we will have to make sure we keep our focus on the job in hand, which is to get a win over a team that beat Munster and ran Leinster and Ulster close on home turf in the PRO12 last season.

“We know that as Aviva Premiership champions other teams are going to raise their game against us, which means we are going to have to raise our own standards as well.”