JIM MALLINDER insists results don’t matter as Saints prepare to kick-off their pre-season campaign in France on Friday night.
Mallinder’s men head to Millau to take on Italian side Zebre in the Vaquerin Challenge.
Saints took part in the tournament last year, losing to Castres before claiming a superb victory against Toulouse.
But that win against the French giants wasn’t to prove a pre-cursor for the season as Northampton started in sluggish fashion.
And Mallinder knows winning friendly matches isn’t the be-all and end-all, putting fitness building at the top of the Saints agenda.
“We’re looking forward to the Zebre game,” said the director of rugby.
“What you shouldn’t do and can’t do is get too carried away with pre-season games because they’re there for a purpose and it’s still part of training. That’s how we see it.
“Particularly the first game out in France, we haven’t done much contact so we’ll be looking for most players to get 40 minutes and it’s not really about the results.”
A game against Zebre, who will take part in the Heineken Cup for the first time in their history this season after taking the place of Aironi, represents a step into the unknown for Saints.
But Mallinder isn’t worried, opting to focus on the showing of his own side rather than the ability of the Rabo Direct Pro12 outfit.
“We really enjoyed the Challenge last year, that’s why we decided to go back,” he said. “There’s a slight difference this year in that we’re only playing one game as opposed to two. That takes a little pressure off the squad.
“It’s quite nice in pre-season to play teams you haven’t played before but it’s not really about who you play or their style of play. It’s all about yourselves and getting yourselves right. That’s what we’ll be doing and concentrating on that.”